Webb Takes Off
This is an article from the March 6, 2000 issue
Amid the din of Tigermania and the buzz of a resurgent Senior
tour, Karrie Webb has quietly taken over the LPGA tour. By
birdieing three of the final four holes at the Australian Ladies
Masters, Webb won for the third time in a row. At 25, she has
the swing, the head and the hunger to dominate the game as no
woman has since Mickey Wright in the 1960s. Webb also has one
other thing going for her: No one is standing in her way.
For all the talk about the depth of the LPGA, the talent pool
seems awfully shallow this season. Consider Webb's likeliest
challengers. Annika Sorenstam is more interested in enjoying her
free time than grinding to regain her No. 1 status. Se Ri
Pak--who has fired her instructor, failed to land a club
contract and labored under constant scrutiny from the Korean
media--is a portrait in innocence lost. Juli Inkster remains a
fierce competitor, but she's 39, has two children and is coming
off the best year of her career, so a letdown seems inevitable.
Laura Davies has played phenomenally since having corrective eye
surgery, but she's still shaky on Sundays, as her 77 in the
Australian Masters and 2-8 playoff record prove. Canadian Lorie
Kane might have the best swing in women's golf, next to Webb's,
but has nine runner-up finishes, no victories and a big
psychological hurdle to clear. Perhaps Webb's challenge will
come from the gifted Grace Park, but until the 21-year-old
rookie proves she has the goods, Webb looks capable of
dominating at least until the Wongluekiet twins get their
In contrast to Webb, the two players dominating the other
American tours (chart, page G16) will probably have more
competition. Tiger Woods, 24, has an ever-improving pack of
30-and-unders ready to pounce when he slips. And 51-year-old
Bruce Fleisher's amazing run will end sooner rather than later,
cut short either by Father Time or by the Senior rookies--Tom
Kite, Lanny Wadkins and Tom Watson--who beat him like a drum on
the regular Tour.
The point is, Webb has a good chance of standing higher above
her peers than any player of this era. Wright and Kathy
Whitworth were such players in their heydays in the '60s, more
dominant on the LPGA tour than Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer
were on the men's circuit. Since then, though, the power in
women's golf has shifted continuously among JoAnne Carner, Nancy
Lopez, Beth Daniel, Patty Sheehan, Pat Bradley, Betsy King,
Davies and Sorenstam.
Right now, Webb is on an upward curve and has steadily addressed
her weaknesses. From 1998 to '99 she improved from 96th to 45th
on the tour in sand saves, from 70th to 22nd in driving
accuracy, and from 49th to 30th in putting. She also improved
her strengths, going from fourth to a sterling (77.5%) first in
greens hit in regulation. The numbers also show how far Webb is
separating herself from her peers. In her eight wins since Jan.
1, 1999, her average margin of victory is 3.2 strokes, more than
a stroke better than the average winning margins of Fleisher and
Matching Wright's LPGA record of 13 victories in a year (in 1963)
is a tall order, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Webb win as
often as Nancy Lopez did in 1978 (nine times). The extent of
Webb's domination will depend most on how well she performs in
the majors. Before winning her first at last year's du Maurier,
she was guilty of pressing in the big tournaments. Now she's
gearing up for them with confidence. "They are my focus," she
"Karrie is at that level now that I don't think anyone else can
get to," said Kane after finishing second again on Sunday.
Davies, who tied for third at the Australian Masters, said that
while everyone will continue to try to catch Webb, "I don't think
anyone can. Karrie is special."
West Coast Fallout
Doral Remains In the Doldrums
Not long ago the Doral-Ryder Open was the biggest event of the
early season and, to many, the unofficial beginning of the PGA
Tour. That's no longer the case, thanks to huge purse increases
on the West Coast, the Andersen Consulting Match Play and the
unpopular course changes made to Doral's Blue Monster. This week
only 11 of the top 30 players in the World Ranking will tee it up
in Miami, the same as last year.
After last year's poor turnout, Doral went into damage-control
mode. First, the resort undid Raymond Floyd's 1996 redesign.
Floyd had added 27 bunkers to Dick Wilson's original design, and
he made most of the existing ones bigger and deeper. "They
butchered a good course as bad as I've ever seen," said Scott
Hoch. The fix was left to Jim McLean, Doral's teaching pro since
1991. He removed 23 bunkers and widened the driving areas.
Tour pros say that Doral has sent out more recruiters than any
other tournament. "It's been a full-court press," says Davis Love
III, "but it's more than the course." The tournament's $3 million
purse is exceeded at four of the nine events on the West Coast
and equaled at three others.
The swing should pick up in two weeks at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill
Invitational--Arnie can still twist arms--but Bay Hill's $2.8
million purse will be the smallest of the year so far. "Even
Arnie is going to have to boost it if he wants to keep getting
the top players," says Love. "That's just the way things are
In women's golf, 2000 may go down as the Year of the Twins. Aree
and Naree Wongluekiet, the 13-year-olds from Thailand, could
steal the show at the Nabisco Championship. In October, Johanna
and Samantha Head, a pair of 27-year-olds from Sussex, England,
could do the same at the Solheim Cup.
Like Aree and Naree, Johanna and Samantha are identical twins,
but there the similarities with the Wongluekiets end. For one,
the Heads are professionals. They are also married, outgoing to
the point of having their own Web site (headtwins.com) and have
an agent, Vicky Cuming of International Management Group, who has
lined up endorsement deals with a computer company, a limousine
service and a cell-phone company.
The Heads are extremely close. When Jo, who is seven minutes
older than Sam, injured her left arm after tripping on volcanic
rock at the Italian Open, Sam, who was in England, felt shooting
pains in the same limb. Without communicating in advance, they
often show up wearing the same outfits. Before they gave up other
pursuits to concentrate on golf, both were talented musicians who
played classical flute, guitar and piano. Each has stood in for
the other on everything from jobs to dates.
Those familiar with the twins' games find it easy to tell them
apart, although they do play the same type of clubs. Jo hits the
ball from left to right, while Sam works it from right to left,
and from the start Jo, longer and a better putter, was the
They won't have that problem this week in Hawaii. Jo, who earned
a conditional card at last year's LPGA Q school, will play in the
Takefuji Classic, and Sam will be her caddie. The week got off to
a good start when the Heads, who celebrated their birthdays on
Monday in Australia, crossed the international date line and had
another party 24 hours later after landing in Hawaii. Sam says,
"We doubled our pleasure."
Other than the Ryder Cup, the best golf on television is the
first round of the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship.
Thirty-two matches, four hours of airtime, quick cuts, pithy
analysis, last-second heroics, serious choking and choices,
choices, choices. Too bad the tournament goes downhill from there.
What do these players have in common?
They're the only three-time winners of the Doral-Ryder Open. Bean
won in 1977, '82 and '86; Floyd in '80, '81 and '92; and Norman
in '90, '93 and '96.
Which tour are you most interested in?
--Based on 507 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Should a victory in a Tour event automatically
qualify a player for the Masters? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
SYNONYMS for a DRAW
Blue darter, dart hook, dead yank, Detlef, Delta counter, duck
hook, hook, pull, quacker, rope hook, shrimp, smother hook,
snap hook, snipe, the quick and the dead, toe job, Weird Al
Yankovic, yank, yankee doodle.
Led by Darren Clarke's perfect 6-0 mark, European tour members
had the best record in last week's Match Play. Here's the
won-lost record for each tour in the first two years of the
Tour 1999 2000
Europe 11-11 20-12
Japan 3-3 3-2
U.S. 50-50 41-50
The Big Three
Bruce Fleisher, Karrie Webb and Tiger Woods have dominated the
Senior, LPGA and PGA tours, respectively, for more than a
year. Here's how their statistics in official tour events
compare since Jan. 1, 1999.
FLEISHER WEBB WOODS
Starts 37 27 26
Wins 9 8 10
Top 10s 21 24 20
Majors 0 1 1
Consecutive Wins 2 2 6
Missed Cuts 2 2 0
Pct. of Purse* 40.1% 54.1% 54.1%
Scoring Avg. 69.18 69.43 69.44
Subpar Rounds 63/81 74/98 85/108
*Percentage of winner's share in events in which they played
Rick Hartmann, Sag Harbor, N.Y.
Hartmann, 41, the head pro at Atlantic Golf Club in
Bridgehampton, N.Y., shot a three-under 285 to win the PGA
Stroke Play by a shot over Senior tour rookie Roy Vucinich, 52,
and Gus Ulrich. Hartmann, the two-time defending champ of the
Long Island PGA, won the Metropolitan section title in 1997 and
Ricky Barnes, Stockton, Calif.
Barnes, 19, a freshman at Arizona, birdied three of the last six
holes to win the Ping Arizona Intercollegiate. His nine-under 204
at the Raven at Sabino Springs in Tucson gave him a four-stroke
victory. The son of former New England Patriots punter Bruce
Barnes, Ricky leads the Wildcats with a 71.22 stroke average.
Leon Fitzgerald, Irving, Texas
Fitzgerald, a 60-year-old electrical contractor who has been
playing golf for 35 years and carries a 12 handicap, aced the
288-yard par-4 13th at Stevens Park Golf Course in Dallas twice
in three months. He used a three-wood for the first double eagle,
on Oct. 29, and a driver for the second, on Jan. 14. They are his
only holes in one.
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