Date: February 04, 2007
Author: Luke Buttigieg

Webb: Catch me if you can

By Luke Buttigieg Already the favourite to win before the event began, world No.3 Karrie Webb&aposs odds have shortened further as she heads into the final day of the MFS Women&aposs Australian Open holding a four-stroke lead. A dual winner of the tournament, having prevailed at Yarra Yarra in Melbourne in 2000 and 2002, Webb was rated the top pick because of her world standing and her five wins last year, including her seventh career major. The fact that she has carded rounds of 67, 71 and now 68 – the latter on a day when no other player broke 70 – means that few will give any of her rivals any hope of running Webb down on Sunday, especially as Yun-Jye Wei is the only player within eight shots. Wei&aposs second successive 71 leaves her four back on six-under and set to play with Webb for the second day in a row, with the star from Chinese Taipei proving on Saturday that she is not overawed in such company. With the wind tipped to play its part as well at Royal Sydney, much as it did during the men&aposs Australian Open at the same course last November, Webb is quietly confident that she can convert her lead into victory and ominously looking forward to such conditions. “Hopefully not, if we get similar conditions tomorrow it&aposs still a course that can give up big numbers so I&aposd just like to have the same sort of focus that I had today and trust in my game and hit some similar shots,” she said on Saturday night. “I think conditions like today too I enjoy because I know that the scores aren&apost going to be shot lights out so sometimes you don&apost have to be going right at the pins, you&aposre quite happy with the 20-footer.” A three-time winner in Japan, with her 2006 season including a pair of victories, Wei also knows what it takes to win and has the look about her of a player who is up for a fight, as she&aposll have to be if she is to challenge Webb. But if Wei hangs in there and Webb struggles in the conditions then fans may yet be in for a thrilling last-day duel between the pair, with first-round leader Sarah Kemp next-best on minus one. It would take something truly special from Kemp or the likes of Spaniard Marta Prieto, Frenchwoman Virginie Lagoutte-Clement or Korean Sun Ju Ahn – who are tied for fourth on even-par – to run Webb down. But even if Webb does produce another strong display and runs away with the title, there is plenty of incentive for her rivals to finish strongly themselves and get their year off to the best possible start. And fans who get to the course or watch the action on TV at home will also be treated to Webb playing well as she has her sights firmly set on a return to world No.1, possibly as soon as sometime this year.