Sunday, February 16, 2014

ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open Sunday: Karrie Webb's 40th LPGA Victory One of Her Most Unbelievable

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 GalGerina 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:!]

[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.]


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Colin N.Z said...

So did those late nights finally catch up with Suzann as I suspected? Too good a player to be hitting a +8 round. Lydia had her chances her putting was just not so good today for a rare +1. I got 3 of my top 5 picks in the top 6. Much stronger field for next weeks Honda LPGA Thailand. I'm still puzzled by what Jaye Marie Green is trying to achieve this year as a rookie. It's a long way to come for 2 rounds. Why no warm up event the week or 2 before against weaker fields? or did winning Q School so easily dictate her itinerary for this year. I was so looking forward to seeing more of this talented young player but 2 tournaments for 2 cuts it's not looking good. Good win by Karrie though I suspect she's played this course more than a few times before. Looked very comfortable out there today.

DaveAndrews said...

Tried to watch the live streaming feed of the TV coverage from Australia, but the stream "froze" ever ten seconds making it impossible to enjoy. Too bad because I enjoy the way the Aussies cover golf on TV. It's a shame that Golf Channel could not have worked a deal for more live coverage, especially of the final round from 9 to 2 in the morning.
Glad to see rookie Amy Anderson make her first cut (T25 at 3 under)on the tour. She is solid.
Was also rooting for Rebecca Lee-Bentham. A strong final round would have given her a top 10 finish, but like so many she struggled on the final day. She will have a much better season this year than her first two on the tour.

The Constructivist said...

Looks like Skarpnord went to a Spingsteen concert, but can't tell whether it was Saturday or Sunday night. I wouldn't care either way, but I remember when Angela Stanford (I believe) got criticized for going to a baseball game the night before a tournament when she was in the hunt.

I blame the winds more than anything. There's nothing harder in golf than dealing with strong, changeable, unpredictable winds and wind speeds. It can affect your rhythm even with the putter. Just amazing how many succumbed who were near the top.

I'm not worried about Jaye yet, partly because I didn't expect her to come out and be a world-beater. It's what you learn from missing cuts early on that matters. But I agree with you, Colin, that you shouldn't travel halfway around the world for just one tournament unless you're an experienced jet-setter like Paula Creamer.

Lydia continues to impress. Even when she's not totally on, she's in the mix. Can't wait till Thailand!

Colin N.Z said...

To Dave I am sure the GC would have had the same rights and feed to coverage as all the other broadcasters, they just chose not to show it. Thanks for confirming the live stream problems thought it was just my computer. I had my laptop running the full scoreboard as I watched it live here on Sky Sports. I hope it's just teething problems as the concept by the LET is great and might encourage more. A couple of other observations.. I did not see any of Stacey Lewis all week even though she finished T6 and will C. Woods now fall off the GC headlines. Bruce I don't see Jaye down for Thailand either so she must be just back home now for the LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix next? As expected Lydia is already bolting away with the ROY award.

The Constructivist said...

Amy Anderson played respectably and I still expect Mi Rim Lee to improve over the course of the year. But it's hard to conceive of a way Lydia doesn't win ROY by a mile, Colin.

GC will have to pay attention to the Symetra Tour to keep Cheyenne in the headlines. A top-25 is great for the confidence and decent for the bank account, but it doesn't get her much closer to an LPGA card. That's where her focus has to be from here on out.