Webb Again a Major Factor

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2006 U.S. Womens OpenNEWPORT, R.I. -- Karrie Webb may have been a victim of her own success in recent years. You see, she won the U.S. Womens Open in back-to-back years in 2000 and 2001, and she hasnt won one since.
 
Annika Sorenstam made the Open her very first victory in 1995, then repeated the feat in 1996. Incidentally, she, also hasnt won one since.
 
Karrie Webb
Karrie Webb's win at the Kraft Nabisco sent her games to new -- and old -- heights.
Sorenstam said Tuesday that she felt as though she submarined her chances at No. 3 by putting so much pressure on herself to succeed. And Webb sees many similarities between herself and Sorenstam in not only their Open records, but their Open attitudes as well.
 
Obviously, Annika and I did the same thing, going for three in a row and missed the cut, said Webb. But I think for Annika, too, those two U.S. Opens came pretty quickly. And I guess they came pretty quickly in my career, probably not as quickly as hers.
 
But you know how big a tournament this is and what it takes to win, and I think you just know that you're capable of winning another one. It comes down to obviously playing well with a bit of luck and good timing to win another one. I think we probably both hold this as the biggest tournament of the year, and you just want to experience that feeling again of winning the U.S. Open and having the trophy in your house for a year.
 
Of course, the U.S. Open championships are where the similarities end. The past couple of years, Webbs career went downhill before being reborn in 2006. Sorenstam has streaked like a meteor with a total of 67 wins on the LPGA alone.
 
For Webb, the holes in her game came little by little, agonizing bit by agonizing bit.
 
I think it was over time, said Webb. And I guess when I say I lost confidence, I never lost the belief I could win on any given week. So I still believed and the thing was - I still, in my practice, showed that I definitely had the game, too.
 
And I just wasn't taking it out on the golf course, and I guess within the last six months well, probably the last 18 months working with Ian Triggs, but in the last six months really, understanding that I had to relearn and teach myself to get away from the technique once I get on the golf course. And I picture the shots that I want to hit and then step up and do it.
 
Webbs lifetime instructor, Kelvin Haller, is marooned in Webbs home country of Australia, the victim of an accident which paralyzed him. Webb has since become a student of Triggs, who has worked with Haller in tutoring Webb, but who has considerable influence over her swing now. Webb got into some bad habits the last couple of years, and it is to Triggs credit that Webb has returned to the form that got her into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
 
And now, after having won the seasons first major with a dramatic wedge hole-out at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and then a birdie, she says she is a better player than when she won the back-to-back Opens.
 
I think I'm definitely a better player, Webb said. I think I know more about my game. I'm a better ball striker now when I trust myself than I was when I won both Opens.
 
But I think I say that just from experience and what I know and what I've learned. And I think when I won both those Opens, as much as I think I knew what I was doing, I think I know more now what has to be done than I did when I actually won.

But her Open drought has been accompanied by hard times on the golf course. And it was during that period that Webb hardened into a seasoned professional.
 
I think when I was going through my few struggles - and it wasn't that I just wasn't winning, I wasn't really giving myself a chance to win and to enjoy the feeling of being in the hunt on Sunday, said the Australian.
 
I guess I look back at when I was playing really well and felt like I didn't really enjoy it as much as I should have. So to be back in the thick of it again, that's what I wanted - to just get back and have a chance to win each week, and just to really appreciate that those opportunities don't come along as much as I thought they did. Because they were always there at the start of my career.
 
Webbs statistics are sparkling this season. Shes second in money won behind Lorena Ochoa, second in scoring, tied for second in putting and fifth in the rankings in greens in regulation. And to think that it all happened after her first three tournaments when the best she could do was a tie for 24th.
 
Then came the Kraft Nabisco and the thrilling hole-out to push it into a playoff, and then Webb prevailing on a birdie. Since then she has won again and finished second three times, including at the McDonald's LPGA Championship, where she narrowly missed winning her second straight major, losing in a playoff to Se Ri Pak.
 
And now, though she is still just 31, she qualifies as a real veteran. She has been to the top and been to the bottom, and now she is back near the top. But never will she forget what a thrill it was as a young player, winning time after time.
 
I think because I got off to such a great start in my career that I gained the respect from the old players pretty quickly, she said. And I think, well, I think I was pretty humble about it all and I wasn't big-naming myself. I gained a lot more respect, as well.
 
So I never really felt, although I was in awe of the fact that I was playing alongside all of these players, I never felt uncomfortable being around them in a way that they made me feel uncomfortable. If I did feel awkward at any stage, it was just that I couldn't believe who I was playing alongside.
 
Now she is the veteran, and a lot of younger players look up to her. Karrie Webb, they say, is a real pro.
 
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