A forgotten star, Webb still aims for No. 1

In a new landscape, with a new outlook, Webb is closer than many realize to getting back to the top.

She is No. 2 in the women's world rankings behind 25-year-old Lorena Ochoa, and Webb could take a huge step toward No. 1 with another victory at Pine Needles, a Donald Ross gem in Southern Pines, N.C., that will host the Women's Open for the third time in 11 years beginning June 28.

"I don't think I'm done yet. That's the bottom line," Webb said. "I'm capable of being the best again, and if that never happens, it won't be the end of the world. But I'll chase after it. What drives me is the young players, to show them at 32 that I'm not washed up."

Webb is not the only player who returns to the U.S. Women's Open with fond memories.

Annika Sorenstam won her second straight title at Pine Needles with an awesome display of fairways and greens that she converted into a five-shot victory. But the Swede went 10 years before capturing another U.S. Women's Open, beating Pat Hurst in a playoff last year at Newport Country Club.

The 36-year-old Sorenstam is recovering from neck and back injuries that forced her out of competition for two months. She made solid strides at the LPGA Championship two weeks ago, and now appears poised to add to her 69 career victories and 10 majors.

No one has played better in the majors this year than Suzann Pettersen of Norway, who blew a three-shot lead in the final four holes at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, then held off Webb to win the LPGA Championship for her first major.

And then there's Wie.

The 17-year-old from Hawaii had at least a share of the lead in three majors last year, including the Women's Open. But wrist injuries and shrinking confidence from 20 consecutive rounds without breaking par have drastically lowered her expectations.

She said this week she would not play the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour next month because "I do not have all of my strength back" and the course would be too long for her.

Pine Needles is not exactly a pitch-and-putt. It will play as a par 71 this year, and at a maximum of 6,664 yards, it will be the longest Women's Open course at sea level.

Webb saw highlights of her 2001 victory at Pine Needles last weekend. She believes she is a better player, even if the victories aren't piling up nearly as quickly as they once did.

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