uo;I don’t know what hit me, actually.’’
With those few words, an emotional Karrie Webb summed up her day at the Evian Championship today. Webb has won seven majors and her eighth was within touching distance.
A combination of bad luck, the failure of her own nerve, and a brilliant clutch finish by a teenaged South Korean denied her. It was one of the most crushing defeats of her long career as a professional.
Webb, who last won a major in 2006, lost by a shot to 19-year-old Hyo Joo Kim, a player competing in her first major and who is less than half the Australian’s age. A two-shot swing on the 72nd hole was enough to do it.
They played all day together, and the canny Webb reeled in the Korean at the 15th hole with a birdie, her fourth on the back nine, and then surged to the outright lead when Kim three-putted from long range.
Webb, 39, made a nice par-save on the 17th and then hit the fairway at the 18th. With a one-shot lead, she seemed destined for an historic eighth major triumph. The momentum was all the older player’s way.
But it all changed quickly. Webb’s four iron shot to the par-four final hole at Evian-les-Bains did not cut as much as she hoped, and skated through the green and into the fringe. Kim hit a peerless hybrid shot straight at the flag and stopped it five metres short of the stick, giving her a chance for the birdie that she needed.
Pondering whether to putt or chip, Webb chose to hit a ‘belly’ wedge and run it down the slope. It almost went in, but had too much pace, and skuttled four metres past the cup as Kim moved to take her birdie putt.
The Korean has won three times on her home tour already this year, and she had been stoic throughout the day. The only time she appeared flustered was at the 17th, where she flubbed a wedge shot. But even then, she got up and down for par, which turned out to be crucial.
Now Webb was under pressure. Kim buried the putt into the back of the cup, meaning the Australian needed to hole out for a playoff. Her putt missed left and low, “the poorest putt I hit all week’’.
Bogey to birdie meant Kim had won it outright, though she appeared incredulous to the fact. “The shot was really impressive,’’ said Webb. “I let the foot off the pedal a little bit, which probably let her have a little bit more of a free putt at it. But she still had to make it and she did.(It’s) impressive for a 19-year old. The putt's probably 19-year old nerves, but the shot is definitely very mature. She played great today.’’
Webb was philosophical. “(I hit) two pretty good swings,’’ Webb said afterward. “(I) just didn't get that 4-iron to cut in there. But just probably a rush of adrenaline, I think, with the belly wedge. The putt was obviously a lot faster than I thought, too. Then just hit a very poor putt after knowing I had to make it for a playoff.’’
Australia’s greatest-ever female golfer tried to take solace in the fact that the swing changes she is making under new coach Mike McGetrick are kicking in. “I hit a lot of shots that, you know, you stand behind the ball and you picture, and I did that. I hit every green from the second hole until there. Obviously (it’s) disappointing, but I gave myself a chance. ‘’
Webb parted with her longtime swing coach Ian Triggs and linked up with American McGetrick in June, and she likes the way it is coming together. “I hit shots today that I don't think I've ever been able to hit, so I'm really excited about that. Obviously wasn't meant to be. I believe in fate a little bit, and I wasn't meant to win.’’