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Webb Carries Out Mission, Wins Big

Golf: Her 10-stroke victory at Mission Hills is capped by a round of 70 that includes a hole in one.

March 27, 2000|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

RANCHO MIRAGE — And now, for her next trick, Karrie Webb will attempt to fly back to her home in Boynton Beach, Fla., . . . under her own power! Wait a minute. Come on, you know Webb isn't actually going to try that. Too easy.

Maybe she should try something really hard, like play her next major tournament left-handed, putt with the flagstick, spot everybody else in the field a shot a side and still win by, say, 15.

The hottest golfer in the game and the most dominating player on the LPGA Tour since Nancy Lopez, Webb won her second consecutive LPGA title in thoroughly convincing fashion Sunday at Mission Hills, where she put the finishing touches on a 10-shot wipeout of the greatest players in the game at the Nabisco Championship.

Webb closed with a two-under 70 that included a hole in one, signed a scorecard for a 14-under 274 and stepped immediately into the game's greatest hierarchy. It was Webb's fourth LPGA victory in 2000--fifth overall--and the 20th of her brief 4 1/2-year career.

Webb, who made $187,500 for her victory, is now only two points shy of the 27 needed to get her into the LPGA Hall of Fame. And she is only 25. Chances are that Webb would have enough points by, say, next week if she wanted, but she is taking the next month off, probably to let the accountants catch up.

So far, Webb has been piling up cash at a breakneck pace. Webb already has won $611,629, which is more than anybody. Webb also leads the LPGA in the player-of-the-year standings, scoring average, rounds under par, top-10 finishes and, of course, victories.

In five official LPGA events this year, Webb has won four times and lost in a playoff to finish second.

"I did wonder if I peaked too fast this year," she said afterward. "I was wondering if my game would still be sharp this week and it was."

Sharp? You could cut grass with it. Webb led by one shot after the first round, by three shots after two, by eight shots after three and wound up winning by 10. If they had planned one more round, Webb would have had to leave a trail of bread crumbs so everybody else could find her.

Runner-up Dottie Pepper, whose back was still sore after pulling some muscles before the third round, never came closer than eight shots. Pepper's third consecutive round of 72 left her at four-under 284, which was worth $116,366. "There's not much you could do but sit back and admire great golf," Pepper said. "When you get it going, you get it going.

"That's what confidence can do. When you get in that zone, you just ride it. I have to say we would have had a helluva tournament without Karrie Webb."

Meg Mallon moved into third place with a closing 67, while Cathy Johnston-Forbes and Michele Redman tied for fourth. Aree Song Wongluekiet, the 13-year-old amateur, shot a 75 and tied for 10th.

Wongluekiet could have tied for sixth, but she was assessed a two-shot penalty at the 14th green when her ball moved forward as she addressed it--apparently because she accidentally hit it--and Wongluekiet went on to putt it from the wrong position.

The ninth-grader and twin sister Naree, who now live in Bradenton, Fla., are the youngest to play in an LPGA major.

"I had a lot of fun," Aree said. "It was a great experience."

Webb's was downright exhilarating. She had an eight-shot lead on Pepper after four holes, or right until Webb struck a six-iron at No. 5, sent the ball bouncing short of the hole and rolled straight into the bottom of the hole for a hole in one.

So focused was Webb that she nearly missed seeing the ball drop because she had bent over to retrieve her tee and didn't look up until her caddie yelled.

"When things go well, things go well for you," Webb said.

That much is hardly in dispute. The Hall of Fame is a distinct possibility, although Webb can't officially get in for another five years when she has 10 years in the LPGA.

The last time any one player was so dominant on the LPGA Tour was 1978, when Lopez won nine times. Webb was 3 at the time.

As for her level of success, Webb says she is grateful.

"It's such a great feeling for all the hard work I've been putting in," she said. "I love to win golf tournaments. I love to be in the situations I put myself in to win golf tournaments."

She certainly is getting a lot of practice. Webb said she was confident she would win when she made the turn and still had an eight-point lead, but didn't allow herself to talk about it until the 16th hole.

When Webb two-putted from 30 feet to end it at No. 18, she raised her arms in triumph, then allowed Pepper to steer her toward the murky, green pond beside the putting surface to take the dive that is ritual for Nabisco Champions.

Webb went feet first. She popped up quickly, even though she lost her sunglasses on the way down. Webb was still smiling, though, and she still had to sign her card in the scorer's tent.

No one would been surprised if she had walked across the top of the water to get there.

Nabisco Championship

274 (-14)--$187,500

Karrie Webb 67-70-67-70

284 (-4)--$116,366

Dottie Pepperv 68-72-72-72

285 (-3)--$84,916

Meg Mallon 75-70-73-67

More Golf

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FUTURE STARS: The 13-year-old Wongluekiet sisters held their own. Aree would have been sixth without a penalty for playing a ball from the wrong position when it inched ahead. Page 12

PLAY SUSPENDED: Thunderstorms interrupted the final round of the Players Championship. Play will be concluded today. Page 12

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