It's too early to write off Webb: 'It wasn't that long ago that I was at the top of my game'

Here’s my piece on Karrie Webb that appeared in the Post yesterday. Anyone else noticed that the LPGA database of players on its website seems to be terrifically slow?

Robert Thompson

On Golf in the National Post

The LPGA rolls into another major today and, as expected, all eyes will be on the youth brigade. The television announcers will chime in about Michelle Wie’s chances and whether her putting is up to the task and raise questions about whether Morgan Pressel’s game has come around. They’ll be sure to gush about golfing beauty and swimsuit model Natalie Gulbis, who is quickly becoming golf’s answer to Anna Kournikova. But through it all, there will likely be little talk of the re-emergence of Karrie Webb, female golf’s answer to David Duval. The only difference is while Duval’s game only now appears to be coming out of hibernation, Webb has used this year to establish herself, once again, as the chief rival of Annika Sorenstam.

While she may not have the glamour or Hollywood agents of teen dream Wie, Webb is proving that you can re-emerge from a couple of years in golf’s hinterland a better player than ever. Webb, who went two years without a win on the LPGA Tour and four years without a major, won the first LPGA major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, in a playoff over Lorena Ochoa.

She followed that up with second place in the LPGA Championship. In golf, nothing improves confidence better than finishing on top of the leaderboard, and Webb, a veteran at 31, says her game now is better than it was during her years of dominance in 1999 and 2000.

“I think I’m definitely a better player,” Webb said Tuesday. “I think I know more about my game. I’m a better ball striker now when I trust myself than I was when I won both [Women’s U.S.] Opens. I think I know more now what has to be done than I did when I actually won.”

Prior to her win at the Nabisco at the start of April, Webb, who entered golf’s Hall of Fame in 2005, felt forgotten as commissioner Carolyn Bivens used Pressel and Paula Creamer to market women’s golf.

“I wasn’t playing well, but it wasn’t that long ago when I was at the top of the game,” Webb added. “And I think I used that as a little bit of motivation, not only from what was being said and how the tour was being promoted, but I wanted to show them how good I could play. I didn’t want them to be in my group and be like, ‘How did she get in the Hall of Fame?’ ”

With her game back on track, the question for Webb — and all of the LPGA for that matter — is when does Sorenstam wake from her slumber, step up her game and start winning again? The LPGA’s answer to Tiger Woods has won only a single tournament in 2006, and hasn’t been competitive in the biggest events to this point.

Sorenstam sits sixth on the LPGA’s money list, behind a group of Korean stars, Webb and Ochoa. Her accuracy off the tee has dropped and she doesn’t look nearly as dominant as she has in the past.

Even Sorenstam acknowledged her game isn’t in top form.

“My game has really been up and down,” she said. “I haven’t been as consistent. I think the stats say a lot. Not as many fairway hits, not as many green hits, as well. So I’ve had some great moments, but I’ve also had some moments that have been very up and down.”

That assessment doesn’t bode well for Sorenstam, who will need to right her game before she can hope to challenge Ochoa or Webb.

As for Webb, she’s not discounting the play of the young guns on the LPGA Tour. But she added they have not been as dominant as expected this year, something she understands all too well.

“The young Americans, their play has dropped off a little bit this year. A lot of pressure has been placed on them,” she said. If there’s one thing Webb understands after two years without a win, it is just how fickle the game of golf can be. In the end, her struggles make her stronger.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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