When Karrie Webb teed off at 12:37 pm today, she was 5 shots behind 3rd-round co-leaders Chella Choi and Minjee Lee, with 6 pairs of golfers still waiting to start the final round of the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, including such stalwarts as Suzann Pettersen and Lydia Ko in the penultimate pairing. She must have known that although Sandra Gal, Gerina Piller, and Paula Creamer had gotten off to good starts--Gal made 5 birdies in her 1st 12 holes to fight her way to -6; Piller opened with a 4-birdie 33 to ascend to -7; Creamer had 3 birdies in her 1st 5 holes to move to -9--most of the golfers who started before her were struggling. But there's no way she could have known how badly the golfers who started after her would play today.
So when Webb made 3 birdies and a bogey on each side to post a 68 and finish at -12, she probably didn't think she had a chance to win. Sure, she had finished 2 shots ahead of Creamer, 3 shots ahead of a late-charging Stacy Lewis, 4 shots ahead of Piller (who would end up alone in 10th), and 7-up on Gal (who stalled over her last 6 holes). But to make up 5 shots on the co-leaders and pass the other 10 golfers ahead of her at the start of the day? No way.
And yet. Caroline Hedwall made 4 bogeys and a double in her 1st 12 holes, while Holly Clyburn endured 7 bogeys in her 1st 14 holes, as each plunged from -9 to -4. Pettersen was just as bad, following up an opening birdie with a triple and 2 bogeys in her next 6 holes to drop from -11 to -6. Her countrywoman Marianne Skarpnord was even worse, making 5 bogeys and a double in her 1st 10 holes to fall all the way to -2.
That left only a handful of golfers with a legitimate chance to beat Webb. Karine Icher had eagled the 1st and birdied the 8th to move to -11, but bogeys on 14 and 16 torpedoed her chances, although she would birdie 18 to join Creamer at -10. Morgan Pressel birdied 4 of her 1st 12 holes to fight her way to -11, but bogeyed 13 and 14 and couldn't birdie either of the closing par 5s, so she joined Stacy Lewis at -9. Amelia Lewis got to -10 with 9 holes to go after making 3 birdies and a bogey on the front, but suffered a birdieless back to join her fellow Americans 3 shots behind Webb. Jenny Shin kept bouncing back and forth between -10 and -9 all day, but after returning to double digits under par with a birdie on 17, and needing an eagle to tie Webb, she suffered a walkoff bogey instead. Her playing partner Mi Hyang Lee, who had fired a closing 63 to win the New Zealand Open just 2 Sundays ago, was -11 as she teed it up on 10, but bogeyed both it and the 11th--and added insult to injury with a walkoff double.
So then there were 3. Lydia Ko had doubled the par-4 6th to fall to -9, fought back with birdies on 8 and 11, but suffered bogeys on 10 and 12 to remain 3 shots behind Webb. Minjee Lee had birdied the 1st to get to -14, but proceeded to bogey 4 of her next 6 holes to drop to -10, fought back with back-to-back birdies on the closing par 5s on the front, but then gone par-bogey-double to start the back, so she was also 3 off the pace with 6 holes to play. And Chella Choi, who like her playing partner Lee had birdied the 1st to get to -14, immediately gave it back with a double on 2 and a bogey on 3; she then stayed at -11, as she made par after par on the front and into the back.
But all of 3 of them would fall short. Ko couldn't find a birdie until the 18th, which left her 2 shots behind Webb with Creamer and Icher. Lee would do even worse on the closing par 5s, bogeying both of them to drop out of the top 10. And Choi would finish her round on a 15-hole par train and end the day 1 shot behind Webb.
Amazingly, Karrie Webb had won the Women's Australian Open for the 5th time in her career. It was sweet vindication for the veteran who had been DQed the week before for signing an incorrect scorecard. And it marks her 40th LPGA victory! I'm still in shock!
[Update 1 (2:54 am): Apparently it was gusty winds that bedevilled so many of Webb's competitors. Check out the story from the Sydney Morning Herald!]
[Update 2 (3:00 am): As usual, the best source is twitter. Choi apparently had a 6-footer for birdie on 18 to force a playoff and couldn't get it to drop!]
[Update 3 (3:05 am): Follow @HayesyHeraldSun and @WomensAusOpen to reconstruct the play-by-play!]
[Update 4 (3:07 am): Here are the video highlights: http://www.golf.org.au/default.aspx?s=waonewsdisplay_new&id=79429&1!]
[Update 5 (8:23 am): Here's Ruthless Mike's mid-round report from about 1 am!]
[Update 6 (8:43 am): It just struck me that Karrie's win on her home turf was even more of a story-book ending than Ya Ni's in Taiwan's 1st LPGA event or Shanshan's in mainland China's 1st. Maybe a little less dramatic, but for 12 players behind her to fail to even force a playoff? Just incredible!]
[Update 7 (10:18 am): Here's Brent Kelley, putting Webb's win in historical perspective.]