12 Feb 2020 | Women's Australian Open |

Webb predicts Aussie win ... soon

by Martin Blake

Karrie Webb proam image
Karrie Webb tees off during Wednesday's pro-am at Royal Adelaide. Photo: Kirsty Wrice

Karrie Webb says it’s a matter of time before an Australian wins her national Open again. Whether it is this week at Royal Adelaide is about to unfold.

The five-time champion pretty much knows it won’t be her – she has a throat complaint that has laid her up in recent days and she’s part-time player nowadays – but she senses the hometown triumph coming soon.

Webb was the last Australian to win the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, at Victoria in 2014 when she reeled everyone in on the final day.

Since then a Kiwi (Lydia Ko), two Koreans (Jin Young Ko and Hana Jang), a Japanese player (Haru Nomura) and an American (Nelly Korda) have lifted the Patricia Bridges Bowl.

The World Golf Hall of Fame member agreed that the bigger-name Australians, like Minjee Lee (world rank 8) and Hannah Green (22) would feel some sense of expectation this week.

“It does come with a little bit of pressure,’’ said Webb. “Early in my career before I won, I really did feel that pressure, to win in Australia, because I’d been winning around the world. I think a lot of the girls will, not 100 per cent treat it like a major, but it’s a big event for them. They want to do well in front of their family and friends and they want to come home and show the rest of Australia why they’re playing so well overseas.”

Webb won the Open in 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2014 but at 45, she only plays around nine events a year and knows that while it suits her, it is not the recipe to compete at the highest level.

“Well, I think that’s the hardest part about playing part time and why I’m not sure how much I’m going to play, just because I think you can practise yourself into physical shape, but there’s nothing like replicating tournament pressure and decision making,” she said on Wednesday. “Last year that was probably the thing I struggled with the most. I played four majors in those nine events and if you’re not already hardened by the pressure of playing golf, in a major, it just ratchets up a notch and I just found myself making poor decisions that I know better than. You’re not putting yourself in those situations enough to make good decisions.

“So, that’s the part I know it’s not necessarily going to hold me back, and it is like riding a bike, but when you’re riding that bike against someone who’s been riding all year, sometimes you’re not quite as sharp.”

Five-time LPGA Tour winner Lee and recent major champion Green are the most obvious Australian candidates this week, although a sneaky chance is the Victorian Su Oh, who had her best year on tour last year. All three have been close before without closing the deal.

All three have held scholarships in Webb’s name and travelled overseas as talented, young amateurs to be schooled by the champion. “Yeah, it gives me great satisfaction to see not only Hannah, but Minjee and Su Oh, those girls are doing really well over on the LPGA and I just think the sky’s the limit for them,” she said. “I think they’re just starting out their careers and they’ve found their feet somewhat. Hannah obviously had a breakthrough year last year, so I’m just excited. Eventually I'll only be watching from the couch or outside the ropes, but I look forward to watching how their careers progress.’’

Royal Adelaide is in pristine condition for the national Open with the fairways running, although Webb would like to see it play firmer. She may well get her wish; warm weather and some wind is predicted for this week, and the greens are expected to reach a reading of around 11 on the stimpmeter.

The south-westerly wind that whips off the St Vincent Gulf just two kilometres away is the main protection for what is one of Australia’s oldest courses.

It is the fifth Women’s Australian Open to be played in South Australia since Golf Australia’s decision to bring it to the Adelaide sandbelt in 2016, and the field includes three of the world’s top 10, six of the top 20 and 12 of the top 30. It’s not to be missed from Webb’s point of view.

It’s the “adrenaline of competing’’ that will get her to the starting line at 7.55am today, despite hardly practising this week because of her illness. “I can’t imagine I won’t be teeing off,” she said.

Minjee Lee goes at 7.44am from the 10th tee with the defending champion, Nelly Korda. Hannah Green has an afternoon tee time, going at 12.34 with Lydia Ko and last week’s Vic Open winner, Hee Young Park.

The first tee time is 7am. The live broadcast on ABC begins at 3pm.

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