A PERFECT MATCH
Forget La Costa, Sorenstam-Webb was the main event
There was a match play event last week with truly global
implications, but it wasn't the one televised on ABC. This epic
tussle was seen by practically no one, but was imbued with far
more gravity than anything Kevin Sutherland or Scott McCarron
When Annika Sorenstam beat Karrie Webb in a taut four-hole
playoff at the Australian Ladies Masters in Ashmore, Queensland,
it was a welcome reminder that golf's greatest rivalry endures
despite a seemingly endless off-season. The LPGA officially gets
under way this week, at the Takefuji Classic in Hawaii, but
Sorenstam's victory was unofficial in name only.
Pretournament ads for the Masters dubbed it "The Main Event,"
and the Sorenstam-Webb slugfest more than lived up to the hype.
Webb was gunning to become the first golfer on any major tour to
win the same tournament five years in a row, and as always her
gallery at the Masters was dotted with dozens of friends and
family members who had made the 10-hour drive from Ayr, the
small farming town in Queensland where Webb grew up. "I knew how
much it would mean to Karrie to make history in her home
country," an unrepentant Sorenstam said on Sunday, following a
69 at Royal Pines Golf Club, which allowed her to make up three
strokes on Webb and force sudden death.
In an era when desperate player agents labor to manufacture
rivalries in tacky made-for-TV specials, Sorenstam versus Webb
has grown organically, fed by high-caliber competition in
meaningful tournaments. Their rivalry has spanned two centuries
and multiple continents, and amazingly, it is still gaining
momentum. Sorenstam and Webb have combined to win the last five
LPGA player of the year awards (the former leads 3-2), and this
game of can-you-top-this has produced mesmerizing golf. In 1998
Sorenstam became the first woman to finish a season with a
scoring average below 70; the following year Webb shattered the
mark by more than a half stroke. In 2000 Webb put together the
best season since Nancy Lopez's heyday, winning seven
tournaments, including a pair of majors. Sorenstam responded in
2001 by winning eight times and setting or tying 30 LPGA
records, including an unprecedented 59.
In contemporary golf nobody is even close to this dynamic duo.
In fact, it is time to declare Sorenstam versus Webb golf's best
rivalry in the post-World War II era.
For all the attendant mythology Nicklaus versus Palmer petered
out after a few years and was characterized by the absence of
memorable showdowns. Nicklaus-Watson was bookended by two
unforgettable duels--the 1977 British Open at Turnberry and the
1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, a stretch of competitive
excellence that barely made it to the five-year mark. Both
rivalries were cut short by a quirk of birth: Palmer was 10
years older than Nicklaus, who was 10 years older than Watson.
Sorenstam is only 31, Webb a tender 27. The saucy Aussie may
have been disappointed about her defeat last week, but given the
scope of her competition with Sorenstam, Webb knows what it will
take to trump her indefatigable rival. "I'll have to make it
three U.S. Opens in a row instead of five straight here," she
No putting grip is a cure for the yips, but the claw helps keep
the hands, elbows and shoulders firm--especially on the dominant
right side--and this steadiness promotes a pendulum stroke and
reduces wrist action. Here's how to get a grip on the claw.
1. Hold the putter solely with your left hand using a standard
2. With your right arm hanging loosely at your side, stretch the
right thumb so the webbed area between the thumb and the
forefinger is taut and each finger on the right hand is flat and
3. Rotate the right hand so that the fingers point toward the
ground and the webbed area between the thumb and forefinger
faces the putter grip.
4. Slide the right hand toward the target so the web between the
thumb and forefinger gently touches the grip (picture 1). Be
sure to keep the fingers extended and flat, and keep some bend
in the right elbow.
The claw promotes two keys to good putting: lining up with your
eyes over the ball and keeping your hands directly below your
shoulders (picture 2).
Bottom Lines by Sal Johnson
Tiger Woods and David Duval made personal history at La Costa by
losing for the first time in the opening round of a match-play
tournament. Going back to their amateur days, Woods had survived
13 first rounds, Duval eight.... Ian Leggatt, a 36-year-old
Canadian, became the third straight first-time winner at the
Tucson Open.... The Australian Ladies Masters marked the 11th
occasion that Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb finished one-two
in a tournament. Webb has the edge, with six victories.... With
his triumph at the Audi Senior Classic, Bruce Lietzke has won
three times in 14 career Senior starts, the tour's best debut
since Bruce Fleisher began 4 for 14 in 1999.... At the Singapore
Masters, Arjun Atwal became the first Indian, and only the
fourth Asian, to win on the European tour.
Jonathan Kaye (below) made the scene last week at the Tucson
Open, his first appearance on Tour since being suspended
following a run-in with a security guard at October's Michelob
Championship. It wasn't a happy return. During Wednesday's
pro-am one of Kaye's playing partners nailed him with an errant
three-wood shot, sending him to the ground in a heap and leaving
a grapefruit-sized bruise on the left side of his torso.
"They're definitely out to get me," says Kaye.
--They might not be old enough to play full time on the LPGA
tour, but Aree and Naree Wongluekiet now have the legal right to
wreak havoc on the road. Last Thursday the 15-year-old twins
earned their driving permits at the DMV office in Bradenton,
Fla. No word yet on who will be the first to get behind the
wheel of the family's Mercedes station wagon. "At this point I
think we would be lucky to get to drive a golf cart," Aree tells
--The PGA Tour policy board recently enacted a ban on players
using cell phones on the course, range and practice green during
tournament weeks, including practice rounds. Fines will be
handed out beginning the week of the Players Championship (March
18-24). Creating a better work environment was the primary
consideration, according to board member BRAD FAXON. "It was
getting tough to practice at the range with all the guys
chattering on their phones," says Faxon. "Some players were
hitting balls while talking with that little string hanging out
of their ears." Then there was a recent Friday round when one of
Faxon's playing partners, assured of missing the cut, phoned
home from the 16th hole. "He called his wife to say he'd be home
for dinner," Faxon says. "I mean, come on!"
--Three years ago Andrew Magee and Jeff Maggert met in the
finals of the Match Play Championship with $1 million at stake.
Last week, with both coming off the worst seasons of their
careers, they were reduced to grinding it out in Tucson among
the other bottom-feeders. Upon bumping into Maggert at the
range, Magee said jokingly, "We've come a long way, haven't we?"
Ongoing putting problems are getting in Tiger Woods's head. He
spent most of the West Coast swing whining about the
greens--unusual for a player who rarely makes excuses and absurd
for a native Californian who grew up on poa annua.
VOTE AT golfonline.com
Following his first-round loss at the Match Play, Colin
Montgomerie complained about heckling and threatened to skip all
U.S. tournaments in 2003 and beyond, including the majors. Would
you miss Monty?
LAST WEEK: After a three-month hiatus the LPGA finally begins
its season this week. Have you missed women's golf?
Yes 38% No 62%
--Based on 3,418 responses to our informal survey.