Waiting in the wings, however, is the current undisputed best player in the womens game Annika Sorenstam.
Webb took last years Open in convincing fashion, finishing five strokes in front of the field at 6-under-par 282. Only two other players (Cristie Kerr and Meg Mallon) managed to end under par at the Merit Club in Libertyville, Ill. They were tied for second at 1-under when it was all said and done.
In retrospect, the tournament was somewhat a microcosym of Webbs season.
The Australian would finish with seven wins on the year, which not only served as a personal best, but the finest the tour had seen since Beth Daniel won seven in 1990. In addition to her triumph at the Open, she also won the Nabisco, giving her two majors for the year. With her six wins the year prior in 99, it was clear that Webb had become the dominant player in the womens game.
It was Sorenstam whom she had eclipsed, of course.
Preview the U.S. Women's Open
After coming into the limelight at the 95 U.S. Womens Open ' which served as the first win of her LPGA Tour career ' Sorenstam quickly established her name as one of the best on the tour and held that distinction for the next few seasons, winning 16 times through 98.
Over the course of the last two years, however, she has somewhat been in Webbs shadow, winning seven times to Webbs 13.
Until this 2001 season, that is. Sorenstam has returned to the pinnacle of the womens game.
In the ten events that she has competed thus far, Annika Sorenstam has only finished out of the top-3 on two occasions. She has collected five victories, four of which came consecutively. On two other occasions, she finished runner-up. She won the first major of the year, the Nabisco Championship.
Now, she returns to Pine Needles, the site of her second victory at the U.S. Open in 1996.
In the meantime, the defending champion Webb has yet to claim victory this season.
The two players are developing a natural rivalry that is unmatched anywhere else in professional golf, and should it culminate this week at Pine Needles, it may prove to be one of the best Opens ever.
News, Notes and Numbers for the U.S. Womens Open
* The U.S Womens Open began in 1946 and is the currently the longest-running event on the LPGA Tour.
* This years total purse for the Open has been set at $2,750,000.
* Pine Needles plays to a par of 70 and is 6,256 yards in length.
* While 12-year-old Morgan Pressel will become the youngest player to ever compete in the Open, 48-time winner on the LPGA Tour Nancy Lopez failed to qualify and will not play.
* Mickey Wright and Betsy Rawls hold the all-time number of victories at the U.S. Womens Open. They have each won four times.