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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF

Before Dust Settles, There'll Be a Webb in Hall

March 17, 2000|THOMAS BONK

Karrie Webb has played three LPGA tournaments this year and won them all, which is a success rate that's hard to improve.

Right, Karrie?

"Obviously, things have gone really well for me this year," Webb said.

Obviously. Even if your golf needs only slight improvement, you might think about pumping up the enthusiasm a little.

Of course, the situation is a lot different on the course, where Webb is trying to improve upon the finest year of her already sensational LPGA career.

The 25-year-old Australian is beginning only her fifth year as a pro, but she already has 19 victories, a major championship, one player-of-the-year award and two Vare trophies--which means she is only four points short of the Hall of Fame's entry level of 27 points. (One point is awarded for a regular tour victory, two for a major, one for the Vare Trophy and one for player of the year.)

Last year, Webb won six times, including the du Maurier, won the money title, the Vare Trophy and was player of the year. She also finished second six times.

As for money, Webb was the first LPGA player to pass $1 million in yearly earnings, which she did as a rookie in 1996 and again last year.

Webb is defending her Standard Register Ping title this week in Phoenix--she is tied for the first-round lead with Annika Sorenstam at five-under-par 67--but says she isn't thinking about her streak. In fact, Webb says she didn't know until after victory No. 3 that Nancy Lopez's record for consecutive victories is five.

"You know, I just don't get really caught up in all that," she said.

"I've just managed to put myself in position to win. My confidence is sky-high. When I have a chance to win, I really think I can."

Next week at the Nabisco Championship, Webb certainly will be favored to win her second major title; this an event in which she has three top 10s in four years.

A LONG SHADOW

Webb says she finds it "annoying" that the LPGA isn't getting enough credit and has to operate in Tiger Woods' shadow.

Said Webb: "We've got great players and we have just as good a show as the PGA Tour does."

DECK THE HALL

News item: Sorenstam wins the Welch's Circle K Championship and reaches the 27-point entry level for the LPGA Hall of Fame.

Reaction: At age 29? In less than seven full years as a pro?

It's time to start toughening up those Hall of Fame rules. Even Sorenstam thinks it's too easy.

The LPGA overhauled its Hall of Fame requirements that were judged way too strict (such as 30 victories) because it was feared nobody would get in. Now, will everybody get in?

Juli Inkster made it last year. Laura Davies and Webb are four points away, Hollis Stacey is five points away and Dottie Pepper is seven points away.

Sorenstam reached 27 points with 19 tournament victories (two of them majors at the U.S. Open), three player-of-the-year awards and three Vare trophies.

Actually, Sorenstam has to wait 3 1/2 years, through 2003, for her coronation. The new rules require 10 years on the LPGA Tour.

THE MARTIN CHRONICLES

This week's announcement from the PGA Tour that it isn't ready to decide to carry on with its court battle with Casey Martin or drop the whole thing only prolongs the cart-or-walk legal episode that is already more than two years old.

Martin, playing this week at the Bay Hill Invitational, called the tour's announcement "bad news," but said he wasn't exactly surprised by it either.

"I've come to know them," Martin said. "Why should I expect anything less? It should be a pretty easy decision, but apparently not. Hopefully, we can get past it and move on. Apparently the last two years hasn't been long enough for them."

Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour commissioner, sounded semi-conciliatory when he said the tour would like to allow Martin to use a cart while keeping the right to make everybody else walk.

Said Finchem: "We just have to ask people to understand and bear with us and see what happens."

Clouding the issue is last week's court decision by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court in Chicago that upheld a ruling against Indiana club pro Ford Olinger, who sued the USGA to use a cart in U.S. Open qualifying. Olinger, who has a degenerative hip disorder, cited the Americans With Disabilities Act, which Martin had used successfully.

OFFICIAL COLA AVAILABLE

This just in: Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate Co. has been named "official chocolate" of the LPGA's 50th anniversary.

Everyone has to be glad that coveted spot has been filled.

A DASH OF PEPPER

Pepper, 34, is in her 13th year and says she knows all about where she stands on the Hall of Fame points list and what it will take to get in.

"I guess I have been thinking about it for a while," she said. "But I realize it would take a year like Juli had last year."

Inkster made her rush into the Hall in 1999 by winning two majors and three other tournaments.

In 1992, Pepper had what would have been a seven-point year, if the new rules had been in effect.

"So it's nothing that I haven't done in the past or certainly couldn't be done," said Pepper, who thinks it's best to be patient.

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