Thanks to a late comeback, Karrie Webb is again a full-fledged member of the LPGA’s “Big Three.”
Webb overcame a three-stroke deficit to Mi Hyun Kim in the final three holes at the Wegmans Rochester LPGA on June 18, earning her first victory of the year.
The victory put the 27-year-old Webb back in the women’s golf spotlight after she had lost ground to world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam and Se Ri Pak, her fellow “Big Three” members.
Sorenstam has five LPGA victories this year, and Pak has won twice. The two had split the first two majors of the season, with Sorenstam capturing the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March and Pak taking the McDonald’s LPGA Championship earlier this month.
Webb’s best finish had been a tie for fourth at the McDonald’s LPGA. Before earning Sunday’s $180,000 top prize, she had stood just 16th on the LPGA money list.
“I never thought I didn’t have a chance of winning,” said Webb, who finished with a 4-under-par 68 for a 12-under 276 total. “Sometimes you think three shots with three holes to go you might not really have that much of a chance, but historically I’ve played the last three holes on this course pretty well.”
Webb birdied the last three holes at Locust Hill Country Club in 1999 to beat Cindy McCurdy by a stroke. She did it again Saturday to cut Kim’s lead to five strokes going into the final round.
Kim seemed in control heading to the 16th hole, but she wilted at the end in 90-degree heat and gusting winds to finish at 2-over 74 and 11-under 277, a shot behind Webb.
The 25-year-old Korean drove into the right rough on No. 16, then left her approach in the high grass in front of the green and had to settle for bogey. Webb, meanwhile, rolled in a 12-foot downhill birdie putt to complete the two-shot swing and pull within a stroke.
Webb sank another birdie putt on the par-5 17th, this one from 10 feet to pull into a tie for the lead. Kim’s third shot hit the flagstick, but she could only two-putt for par.
On the par-4 18th, Kim again was short with her approach and chipped her third shot 8 feet past the pin. Webb left her birdie putt 4 feet short, then opted to putt out and put the pressure on Kim. The strategy worked when Kim’s par putt rolled inches past the hole.
“Before the round, my feeling was bad, uncomfortable,” said Kim, who finished second for the second consecutive week. She was runner-up to Sorenstam on June 16 at the Evian Masters. “I did not have confidence. I don’t know why. . . . Today, the wind made it hard. I could not control my shot.”
Pak finished alone in third at 7-under 281.