Date: May 15, 2008

Webb: Future bright after Annika

Former women&aposs world No.1 Karrie Webb has backed Lorena Ochoa to fill the void left by Annika Sorenstam&aposs retirement at the end of this year. During the 1990s and into the early part of this decade, Australian Webb, 33, enjoyed an intense rivalry with Sorenstam, who on Tuesday announced her decision to retire from competitive golf at the end of 2008 following a 17-year professional career which has so far delivered 88 career titles, 72 of them on the LPGA Tour since 1994 and including 10 major championships. Sorenstam, 37, was also the LPGA Tour&aposs golfer of the year eight times, her dominance from 1995 until 2005 only interrupted by Webb, who topped the rankings in 1996, 1999 and 2000, before Mexico&aposs Ochoa succeeded the Swede as women&aposs No.1 in 2006. Hall of Famer Webb, speaking on the eve of the LPGA Tour&aposs Sybase Classic at Upper Montclair Country Club, said golf would miss Sorenstam but new players led by Ochoa would come into their own in her absence. “Obviously when a player of Annika&aposs calibre decides to retire, I think it&aposs going to be a big hole to fill,” Webb said prior to playing a practice round at Upper Montclair. “She&aposs been a mainstay and been the No.1 player in the world for many years and someone that&aposs in contention each and every week. So to not see her out here or on the leaderboards or on TV, it will be a big void to fill.” “I think that we have the talent to do that. Obviously Lorena Ochoa is starting to fill that void now with the play that she&aposs had in the last two or three years.” “When I first came out on tour, we were starting to lose the Nancy Lopezes and the Pat Bradleys and the Patty Sheehans on my first couple of years on Tour, and that was the question that was being asked then; is that we didn&apost have characters of that calibre on Tour. And I think there were plenty of players that eventually stepped up and filled that role.” “So for a while, we are going to miss Annika. I think the Tour will always miss a player like Annika. But along the way, new stories will come, great players will come out and you know, I think they will more than come close to filling Annika&aposs shoes.” Webb said she had not been surprised by Sorenstam&aposs announcement. “I know she&aposs been talking about it for a few years, and I think perhaps maybe she thought she might last year, but I&aposm sure with the injury that she had, she probably didn&apost want to finish on that note and she&aposs already had a great year now,” she said. “She&aposs already won three times so it would not matter how she played the rest of the year, so she&aposs proven to herself, which is probably the most important thing that she can come back from that injury and play well.” Current world No.1 Ochoa also paid tribute to Sorenstam on Wednesday. “She&aposs why I&aposm here,” Ochoa said. “I started practising and playing a long time ago and I always had in my mind that I wanted to be the best and that I wanted to dominate the game.” “And of course, Annika has been my motivation. I always try to learn from her inside and off the golf course. She&aposs the one that really inspired me and to be here today like the No.1 player.” “As for the news, I&aposm going to miss her. I do have mixed feelings. It&aposs sad. I think the LPGA is losing a big name.” Ochoa said she believed Sorenstam was her biggest rival, adding: “Annika is the best player. She&aposs been out there for so long, and her experience and her talent and all she does to be as good as she is; she was and is today the biggest challenge not only for me but for all of us.” “I think just being part of the Annika era, to me, was an honour. It is and I&aposm going to try to enjoy it as much as I can the next few tournaments we play together against each other and just try to make the most of them and just leave with great memories. She&aposs been great to me and a great player.”