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Webb has shot at history in Australia

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Karrie Webb will be looking to hit shots into rare air in her celebrated return to the Australian Ladies Masters this week.

The Hall of Famer will be looking to surpass the mark Sam Snead set winning the same tour event eight times. She’ll be looking to win the Australian Ladies Masters for the ninth time when she tees it up Thursday at the RACV Royal Pines Resort in Queensland.

“I think my record has proven I have a good shot this week before I even tee off,” Webb said in a news conference. “But, you know, it’s just a matter of getting myself into contention, and it’s nice when I start here.”

Webb will be making her first start of the year.

“I don’t quite know where my game is,” Webb said. “Coming here, I have good feelings.”

Any why wouldn’t she? Webb has won all eight of her Australian Ladies Masters titles at the Royal Pines Resort. She’s cumulatively 264 under par in the 20 events she has played there. She scorched the place in 1999 and 2010, winning both times with 26-under-par totals. She shot a 62 there when she won in ’07.

Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times.

“Obviously, it would be very special,” Webb said of surpassing what Snead did.

With a win this week, Webb would equal another Australian Hall of Famer’s mark. Peter Thomson won the New Zealand Open nine times.

“She would have to be, again, one of the top favorites, because it’s a course she loves,” Laura Davies told media Down Under.

Royal Pines is where Webb broke through to win her first professional title in her native Australia. Queensland also is where she was born and grew up.

“I think I had been a pro for three years and you guys [in the media] thought that was taking too long to win,” Webb said. “So, it’s a special memory. I felt like I got that pressure off my back when I won in Australia.”

Webb, who will turn 40 late this year, is the defending champ this week. She has won 55 professional titles around the world, 39 LPGA titles, including seven majors. She came from two shots back in the final round at Royal Pines a year ago, beating South Korea’s Chella Choi by two shots. Webb also won the Australian Ladies Masters in ’98, ’99, ’00, ’01, ’05, ’07 and ’10.

The Australian Ladies Masters is co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and Australian Ladies Professional Golf. Webb is the highest ranked player in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings in the field at No. 8. The field also includes No. 22 Caroline Hedwall, No. 24 Jessica Korda, No. 29 Chella Choi and No. 43 Yani Tseng, who is coming off a victory at the Taifong Ladies Open in Taiwan, her first victory in 22 months.

Korda won the LPGA season opener in the Bahamas two weeks ago and has some meaningful history in Australia. She won the LPGA season opener at the Women’s Australian Open two years ago, a title that made big news Down Under given her father, Petr, won the Australian Open in tennis in ’98.

Korda, like most everyone in the field, will be looking to prevent Webb from making more history.

“I’m going to try my best,” Korda said in a news conference. “It’s hard to beat Webb where she’s really comfortable . . . She is one of the biggest idols for me to watch and learn from.”