19 Jun 2020 | Professional golf | Feature stories |
Great Australian Moments 16: Webb's thunderclap
by Martin Blake
Of all the tens of thousands of beautiful golf shots that Karrie Webb has hit over a career spanning more than two decades, one stands out.
Webb was in a rut by her own stellar standards when she teed it up in the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills resort in California in March 2006, the first major of the women’s season.
She had not won anything for almost two years, not picked up a major since 2002, and while her motivation was strong, there were nagging doubts growing in her mind.
What do you do when you’ve already done it all? That was the issue for the Australian legend. Webb had won the full set of women’s majors, been the best in the world, climbed every mountain there was to climb. What next?
A little exclamation mark was in order.
On the final day in California, the 31-year-old Australian began a full seven shots behind the leader, Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa.
Ochoa wobbled on the back nine, and Webb was having a good day, and she was tied for the lead at seven-under par with Michelle Wie when she stood over a pitch of just over 100 metres (116 yards) at the par-five 18th hole, with its water course in front of the green.
Then, the thunderclap. Her purely-struck pitching wedge shot bounced, skipped, hopped again and then buried itself in the cup, to the wild applause of the crowd behind the green. An eagle had put her into the lead.
Webb herself did something she later described as “un-Karrie Webb-like” in the moment. Screaming “yesssss’’, she ran a few steps and leapt into the arms of Mike Paterson, her longtime caddie.
It remains one of the most famous shots in golf. She had shot 65, by far the low round of the day, posted nine-under overall, and waited for the leading groups to roll in.
"I think my heart just about jumped out of my chest, because it was aching for five minutes," she told the media later.
Webb thought that shot had probably won it outright, but there was more to do, as it turned out. Ochoa, a year out from becoming the No. 1 player in the world, had something left in the locker.
The Mexican eagled the last after a brilliant five wood to the green, and they were forced into a playoff alongside Wie, who was threatening to become the youngest-ever major winner at just 16 years old.
American Wie had picked up shots in the closing stretch, and had a great chance to close it out in regulation only to falter. "I knew 18 was reachable for those guys," Webb said. "I thought, 'I can't believe I have to play a hole after doing that’, because it took me 15 minutes to calm down."
The Australian now had an advantage in experience. Back down the 18th they went, and she knocked her second shot on to the back fringe with a fairway wood, then after Wie and Ochoa could only manage par, she was faced with a two-metre birdie putt for the win. It was never in doubt.
“Destiny, definitely,” she said afterward.
It was her seventh official major, celebrated by the now-traditional leap into Poppie’s Pond beside the 18th hole. “I feel pretty lucky to be here,” said the Australian.
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