2006: Webb spins another ‘W’

Williamsburg, Va.

Whatever Karrie Webb lost the past few years, she suddenly has found. And now that she’s got it, she’s again leaving the rest of the LPGA in her wake.

Since her 72nd-hole approach found the bottom of the cup and led to a miraculous playoff victory April 2 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Webb has been on an extended tear, something that hasn’t happened in more than four years.

Her victory at the Kraft Nabisco was stunning, but her seven-stroke romp over Lorena Ochoa and Hee-Won Han May 14 at the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill was downright dominant. On top of that, the victory showed that Webb’s recent success – she followed up her first major victory since 2002 with two seconds and a tie for 10th – is no aberration.

It also showed that the world’s former No. 1 player is back – and perhaps ready to again duel with the woman who took her place – Annika Sorenstam.

“I think the last four weeks proved to probably a lot of people and proved to myself as well that Kraft wasn’t a fluke,” Webb said. “I didn’t come out of nowhere, pop up, win that and disappear again.”

For several seasons, however, the old Karrie Webb was nowhere to be found.

Webb became a Hall of Famer at 30, thanks in large part to a sterling start to her pro career. From 1996 to 2002, she won 28 times and never finished lower than No. 5 on the money list. She was Player of the Year in 1999 and 2000, when she won a combined 13 times and had nine second-place finishes.

Beginning in 2003, however, Webb’s career took a nosedive. She won one tournament in ‘03 and one in ‘04, then suffered through her first winless season last year and fell to 27th in earnings. A swing overhaul accounted for some of her problems, as did a lack of confidence.

“It feels good to have that little bit of confidence and have that trust in my game to just go out there and produce the quality of shots that I used to see,” she said.

While Sorenstam missed the cut, Webb shot rounds of 66-68-66-70 to become the tour’s first four-round wire-to-wire winner since Jeong Jang at last year’s Weetabix Women’s British Open. Her 14-under 270 broke the tournament record by seven shots. And with the first-place check of $330,000, Webb surpassed Ochoa for the top spot in season earnings with $935,002 – already topping what she has made in each of the past three seasons.

“She’s playing with a lot of confidence right now and putting extremely well,” said Cristie Kerr, who played with Webb the first two rounds. “I think she’s back to where she was when she made the Hall of Fame.”

And Webb, for one, is enjoying it.

“I think you appreciate it more the second time around,” she said.

Davies’ doldrums: In finishing tied for 66th, Laura Davies made her first cut of 2006. The 20-time LPGA winner has been struggling, and unlike a seasoned veteran, she’s been thinking like a rookie.

“I missed a couple of cuts early, and I felt a bit of pressure on it and then I hit bad shots. . . . It’s just been a struggle and I’ve got no confidence,” Davies said. “I stand on every tee and I just see trouble on both sides. It’s not happening.”

Davies said she went through a similar spell in 1990 when she lacked confidence and hit it badly off the tee, so she is trying the same formula that she used to break out of her funk then: just keep playing.

However, after an even-par opening round, Davies was showing little confidence.

“The demons will be there again . . . it’s what comes first, the chicken or the egg?” Davies said. “Do I make a cut and get rid of the demons? Or get rid of the demons to make the cut?”

Short shots: Lorena Ochoa’s second-place finish was her fifth of the season, and the third time in four years she has been runner-up at Kingsmill. “The more chances you have, the more wins you’re going to get,” said Ochoa, who has finished first or second in her past five events. “This is going to make me stronger and now I really want to win bad.” . . . Rain halted play for 1 hour, 42 minutes midway through the leaders’ final round. . . . Cristie Kerr (T-4) and Mi Hyun Kim (T-7) have each been in the top 10 all four years at Kingsmill. . . . Helen Alfredsson holed out for eagle on the par-4 18th hole in Round 3 using an 8-iron from 149 yards. . . . Natalie Gulbis had a hole-in-one on the 130-yard 13th hole in Round 2. She used a 9-iron to record her second career ace. . . . Japanese rookie Ai Miyazato shot a second-round 77 and missed her first cut. She had made eight consecutive cuts to start the season. . . . Sung Ah Yim was disqualified after Round 2 for playing with a nonconforming, or altered, club. She bent a wedge after slamming it down late in the round, then continued to play with it. She shot 71-73 and would have made the cut, but she turned herself in following Friday’s round.

– Alex Miceli and wire reports

On the tee

Next up: LPGA Corning Classic, May 25-28, Corning (N.Y.) Country Club. Defending champion: Jimin Kang.

The buzz: A year ago, Kang shot a final-round 66 for her first career title, but she has had only two top 10s since.

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