2002: Triple crown try ends quickly for Webb
The second round of the 57th U.S. Women’s Open already was in the books July 5, and on televisions across Kansas, NBC stations aired promo spots inviting viewers to watch Karrie Webb chase history as she vied for her third consecutive U.S. Open title.
There was one small glitch: Webb had the weekend off.
Webb’s game inexplicably disappeared at Prairie Dunes, as did her quest for a third consecutive Open. Rounds of 79-73 (12 over par) ended her streak of making 56 consecutive cuts, dating to the Safeway Championship in September 1999. The Open cut fell at 9-over 149, three shots too low to include Webb, who managed only one birdie in 36 holes.
If the fans in Kansas who had gathered to watch Webb’s odyssey toward the record books seemed shocked at what they had witnessed, well, they weren’t nearly as jolted as Webb.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Webb, who was coming off a victory at the Wegmans Rochester LPGA June 23. “I was just thinking on that green (at No. 18) that it’s been almost three years since I missed a cut. Obviously, it’s not the best time to miss one, but it’s over now. Hopefully, it’s another three years before I miss another one.”
Webb’s first-round 79 tied her highest score in seven LPGA seasons, matching her 79 at the 1997 McDonald’s LPGA Championship. This from a player who not only won the past two U.S. Opens, but did so in authoratative fashion, winning by five shots at the Merit Club outside Chicago in 2000 and eight shots a year ago at Pine Needles in North Carolina.
According to Webb, her out-of-control spiral began even before she struck her first shot at the 160-yard, par-3 10th hole, where she began the tournament July 4. Competitors on the LPGA have been trying for several years to devise a way to slow Webb, already a 27-time champion and LPGA Hall of Famer in waiting. Little did they know she could be throttled with just a few words.
“Now on the tee,” began starter Jean Miller as Webb approached, “from Boynton Beach, Fla. . . .”
Webb, a strong believer in omens, said she was “stirred” by the introduction. Though she lives in Boynton Beach and relishes her adopted life along the ocean in Florida, it is not where she is from, she said. Webb lives in Florida, true, but she is from Australia. And proud of it.
Boynton Beach? Bad omen.
“I think that stirred me on the first tee and I made bogey, and then bogey on the next hole,” said Webb. “I just never got into the flow of the course. I felt like I’d never been on the course. . . . I felt I had as good a chance of winning this year as I have in the past two. It’s just really out of the blue.”
Don’t think that Webb laid her poor play entirely on the doorstep of the starter, though. She stood tall and took full responsibility for every poor shot, and unfortunately, there were an uncharacteristic high number of them. She became all too familiar with the tall, waist-high “gunsch” off the fairways, trouble she had eyed only from a comfortable distance in her practice rounds.
“I was in it so many times it was ridiculous,” she said.
Webb, 29, was the sixth woman with a chance to win three consecutive U.S. Opens, a group that includes players from Mickey Wright (1960) to Annika Sorenstam, who was the last to have a shot at a three-peat in 1997. Sorenstam missed the cut in her attempt to three-peat, too.
“She (Webb) said she felt good and didn’t know what happened – that’s what happened to me, too,” Sorenstam said. “It’s something (winning three in a row) that is really difficult to do, but I know she’ll bounce back real quickly.”
Asked if there was anything she might take from the experience, Webb said, “I don’t think I learned too much from this at all. I really felt like I had a good chance to win. I really . . . it sounds stupid to think that I really felt like I was swinging it well before yesterday, but I really was. It just vanished . . .”
Surprisingly, so had the two-time defending champion by the time Round 3 began at the U.S. Women’s Open.