Karrie Webb is playing the Kraft Nabisco Championship for the 19th time this week, and it is a tournament she loves. Twice she has won the season&aposs first major, in 2000 and 2006, including her famous hole-out at the 72nd hole in the 2006 version, and she has an astonishing 11 top-10 finishes to suggest it is a favorite. So the memories are strong. The other day she practised with the two teenaged members of her Golf Australia scholarship holders, Minjee Lee and Su Hyun Oh, and they asked her as they walked down the 18th fairway exactly where she had hit that wedge shot from in 2006, the one that rattled into the cup and put her into a playoff that she ultimately won. It remains the single-most famous shot of her storied career. “It was fun because it&aposs obviously their first major they played in,&apos&apos said Webb. ” They asked me when we were on 18 where I made the shot from. Mikey (caddie Mike Walters) looked in his yardage book, he said: &aposRight where your mum (Clara) is standing&apos, to Minjee. I was standing pretty much on the spot.&apos&apos Remarkably, Webb comes to Mission Hills in California as the favorite for the tournament on the back of two early-season wins, the Australian Open and the Founders Cup, as well as a near-miss in Singapore when she gave up a three-shot lead on the final day. At 39, she is still ranked fifth in the world and leads the LPGA Tour money list. But today she admitted a change of mindset had kept her competing at the highest level. Five years ago with help from sports psychologist Noel Blundell and coach Ian Triggs she began to try to enjoy the game more; to stop and smell the roses. She spoke openly at the time about the possibility of retirement, but she opted to continue playing with a different attitude. Today, she said the change was essential. “I wouldn&apost be out here,&apos&apos she said. ” If I didn&apost learn to let go a little bit and not have my life totally revolve around golf, I think you wouldn&apost have seen me for probably five years. I think that&aposs kept me out here. Even though I am still hard on myself, it&aposs not to the extent that it was 10, 15 years ago.&apos&apos The Queenslander, winner of seven major titles, said she had come to know herself better in this period. “I think I just understand myself a lot more. I understand each and every day what part of my game is there and what&aposs not. If it&aposs all there, I&aposm pretty happy about that. But I just manage myself pretty well. Early in my career I was very good mentally, but I didn&apost know how exactly I was approaching that. I think I&aposve learnt that side of the game a lot in the last 10 years. I feel like I&aposm as in good a place mentally on the golf course as I ever have been probably because I understand what it takes out there, what it takes for me to play well.&apos&apos Mission Hills suits her game. Although the players have turned up this week to find there is little or no rough, Webb enjoys it. “I like the golf course. I think it sets up well for me. I don&apost hit it overly long anymore compared to what some of the young girls are doing now, but I feel like I shape the ball well off the tee and generally keep the ball in the fairway, just go from there.&apos&apos That win in 2006 was her most recent in a major, although she has contended a few times. Major number eight has a good ring to it. “I feel like my game is as good as it&aposs ever been as far as having the ability to win majors,&apos&apos she said. “Obviously starting the year off as well as I have, it gives me that little bit of confidence going into this week that if I get things going, hopefully down the stretch on Sunday I&aposll have a shot to win it again.&apos&apos There are five Australians in the field this week, including gun amateurs Lee and Oh, who were part of a batch of top amateurs to receive invitations. Katherine Kirk and Lindsey Wright also are playing. World No. 2 Suzann Pettersen has withdrawn because of injury.
Author: Martin Blake / golf.org.au