PHOENIX (AP) — Karrie Webb has been one of the most prolific winners in LPGA Tour history. Yet she was wondering whether she would ever win again.
Her two-year drought ended Sunday, when she shot a 5-under 67 on Sunday for a two-stroke victory in the J Golf LPGA International.
The 34-year-old Australian earned her 36th career LPGA Tour title, finishing at 14-under 274. Third-round leader Jiyai Shin of South Korea shot a 70 to finish second.
“You know you still have the ability to do it, but you’re just not putting the scores on the board that indicate you can still do it,” Webb said. “Even less than a month ago I was still questioning that.”
Another South Korean, In-Kyung Kim – the leader after the first and second rounds – finished three strokes back. She had a 70.
Webb had an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys in breezy conditions on the 6,711-yard Papago Golf Course. She started the day one shot behind Shin, but took the lead just after the turn, then capped her day with a near-eagle on No. 18.
The $225,000 first prize raised Webb’s career earnings to just over $14.5 million, second only to Annika Sorenstam.
Webb ended any doubt by knocking her second shot about 10 feet short of the cup on the par-5, 475-yard 18th. She missed the putt, but tapped in for birdie, then threw her fist in the air in celebration.
She had not won since her five victories in 2006.
But it was no nerve-racking effort. Webb called her week at Papago “probably the most calm I’ve been in my entire career.”
“I know that’s probably a big statement,” she said, “but I never really got ahead of myself and I really was very good this week about staying right in the present and worrying about the shot that I had.”
Webb started the day one shot behind the third-round leader Shin and briefly took the lead with an eagle on the par-5, 513-yard sixth hole, hitting a 3-wood 20 feet from the hole, then sinking the putt. Kim, though, had birdies on the sixth, seventh and eight holes to move in front.
Kim made the turn with a one-shot lead at 13-under but hit it in the water on the par-5, 544-yard 10th hole and wound up with a double-bogey 7. Webb stormed through the opening, knocking in a birdie putt on the 10th to go to minus-13, then making another on the par-4, 355-yard 11th to open a two-shot lead on her playing partner Shin, winner of the HSBC Women’s Champions event in Singapore three weeks ago.
“I kept waiting for Karrie to make a mistake,” Shin said, “but she played very well.”
Webb did have a bogey on No. 15 to fall back to 13 under, but Shin had a bogey there, too.
“I’m pretty lucky that she didn’t have her best putting day,” Webb said of the young South Korean star. “I’ve definitely seen her make a few more putts than she did today.”
The tournament, a longtime stop on the LPGA tour, lost its sponsor and its home course a year ago. The LPGA stepped in to save the event, moving it from the scenic Superstition Mountain Golf Club east of Phoenix to the newly renovated Papago municipal course in the city.
“I missed the cut three times at Superstition Mountain,” Webb said. “I’m sure I’m one of the only players who wasn’t disappointed to not be going there this year.”
The course was closed for most of last year and didn’t reopen until December, so crews had to scramble to get it in shape for a professional event. The brown-tinged greens were especially hard because the grass hadn’t had a chance to grow.
Two-time defending champion Lorena Ochoa had her best round of the week at 70 to finish at 4-under 284.
Michelle Wie, in her second tournament of the season but first in more than a month, was over par for the fourth consecutive round, a 73 to finish at 8-over 296.
The event was a tuneup for the season’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship next week in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Webb won the tournament in 2006, the last of her seven major titles.