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A forgotten star, Webb still aims for No. 1

Karrie Webb, U.S. Open
Gerry Broome/AP
Karrie Webb won the U.S. Open at Pine Needles in 2001.

(AP) — Karrie Webb never cared for the spotlight until she found herself in the shadows.

There was a time she dominated women's golf, winning five out of eight majors, a standard topped only by Mickey Wright and Tiger Woods in the professional game. She won the career Grand Slam in a span of seven starts, the quickest of anyone in golf. And in the major considered the toughest test, Webb had no peer.

She won the U.S. Women's Open in consecutive years by a combined 13 shots, the latter an eight-shot victory in 2001 at Pine Needles.

"It came so easy to her," Juli Inkster said. "She had so much success early on that it was like, 'I don't see what's so tough about this.' But then she struggled a little bit, and the game got tough for her."

The biggest struggle was coping with stardom.

An intensely private Australian, she hoped that her golf would be enough. Webb didn't want anyone into her home, into her life. Reading stories about how she lacked the personality of a Nancy Lopez or a Dottie Pepper only made her withdraw even more.

"I liked the bright lights on me because I was playing good golf," she said. "But they can go away off the golf course. I had a bit of a tough time with people criticizing me for who I am, my personality on the golf course. I didn't handle it very well."

She returns to Pine Needles with something to prove.

She is only 32, even if it seems as though she has been around for forever. If there was reason to feel her age, it was the arrival of so many teenagers on the LPGA Tour. Morgan Pressel became the youngest major champion in LPGA history at age 18 two months ago at the Kraft Nabisco. Paula Creamer was an 18-year-old rookie when she won her first LPGA Tour event, a week before graduating from high school. Michelle Wie has drawn the largest galleries since she was 14.

Webb was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame two years ago, and wondered what some of these kids thought of her.

"I didn't want them to be in my group and be like, 'How did she get in the Hall of Fame?' I wanted to show them the standard of golf that I can play," Webb said. "That might have motivated me a little bit."

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