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Webb Moves Five Clear of Kerr, Ochoa


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By HANK KURZ Jr., AP Sports Writer - May 13, 2006

 

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- The smile is polite, but cautious, when it's suggested that Karrie Webb is all the way back to being one of the best golfers in the world.

 

One year after going winless for the first time in her career, the two-time player of the year isn't ready to proclaim her problems solved and her comeback complete.

 

"It's just I've learned how fickle this game is and how fine the line is between playing really good and maybe not so good," Webb said after a 5-under 66 Saturday gave her a five-shot lead over three players in the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill.

 

"I'm going to ride the good side of the line for as long as I can."

 

Even she sees similarities between now and when she was at her peak.

 

"It feels good to have that little bit of confidence and have that trust in my game to just go out there and produce the quality of shots that I used to see," she said.

 

She's ridden it for three rounds so far, and left the trio of Lorena Ochoa, Cristie Kerr and Pat Hurst with an enormous challenge if they expect to fight for the win.

 

"You're talking about a player that doesn't really back down, so basically it seems like we're playing for second, but you never know," Hurst said.

 

Webb was methodical, steady and not at all flashy, the same characteristics she used when she was winning three money titles and player of the year in 1999 and 2000.

 

Already a winner in the season's first major -- the Kraft Nabisco -- and runner-up in her two of her last three events before this weekend, Webb is second on the money list and looking more and more like the player who once ruled women's golf.

 

"I felt pretty in control today," she said, adding her comfort level and confidence haven't been this high since she won easily in Chicago in 2004.

 

This time, with top-ranked Annika Sorenstam already gone after missing the cut for the first time since 2002, Webb's 13-under 200 total looks imposing. The Australian has held the lead going into the final round 29 times in her career, winning 18 times.

 

She'll play the same way she has all week.

 

"That's what you've got to do. I mean, five shots can be gone in a couple of holes if you don't go out there with the same trust that I have played with," Webb said. "I've got a lot of work to do tomorrow and there's a lot of great players chasing me."

 

With Hurst closing in, Webb asserted herself with three consecutive birdies on the front nine Saturday, starting when she made a 7-foot putt on the par-3 fifth hole. She hit her approach to about 8 feet on the par-4 sixth and made that, then hit her third on the par-5 seventh to about 10 feet, rolling that one in, too, to reach 11 under.

 

Two more birdies on the back nine, and a double bogey for Hurst on the par-4 18th hole, gave Webb a huge cushion as she pursues her 32nd career victory.

 

"It's not my tournament yet," Webb said.

 

Hurst shot a 69, her third consecutive round in the 60s -- and third with a one-hole blip -- while Ochoa surged with a 5-under front nine on her way to a 65.

 

Kerr, playing in the final group, shot a 70. She had three bogeys and four birdies, the last on a 10-foot putt at No. 18. She also had several putts and chips that lipped out, keeping her from ever getting on a roll and making a run at Webb's margin.

 

"There's a big difference between six shots and five shots," she said.

 

But all the chasers expect the task to be difficult with the way Webb is playing.

 

"I need to play aggressive tomorrow," Ochoa, the tour's money leader, said after the lowest round of the tournament. "I need to have a good start just to kind of get a number on the board, maybe put a little pressure on her and we'll see what happens."

 

Hee-Won Han was alone in fifth, seven shots back, after a 69, and Jeong Jang was sixth at 208 after a 70. Paula Creamer was tied for seventh at 209. She shot 67.

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