Originally created 04/28/00

LPGA braces for return of Karrie Webb

STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. -- Karrie Webb is rested and ready to resume her domination of the LPGA Tour. She's come to the right place.

The Chick-fil-A Charity Championship, with Nancy Lopez serving as official host for the first time, begins Friday at the Eagles Landing Country Club, a ball-striker's course that seems perfectly suited for the ball-striker in women's golf.

Webb has been off the tour for a month after winning four of her first five events, finishing second in the other. She has been playing golf for fun or fishing near her Boynton Beach, Fla., home.

"It's trying to get into contention every week and having a chance to win that really gets me fired up," said Webb, who finished third at the Chick-fil-A tournament a year ago while still a mere mortal. "Hopefully, I can do that this week and give myself a chance to win on Sunday."

Webb leads the LPGA in just about every meaningful category and arrives in this Atlanta suburb as the woman to beat, especially with her friend and chief competition, Juli Inkster, not in the field.

Lopez, who won nine tournaments in 1978 and eight in 1979, can identify with the hottest player on the tour.

"I remember how easy everything seemed to feel then," Lopez said. "When you're playing like that, you feel as though nothing can go wrong. You're totally confident. You don't fear anything. You stand on the tee and hit it in the fairway, and then you hit it onto the green and make putts."

Webb, 25, won three times in a row to begin the year. Not a bad follow-up to winning six times in 1999 and being chosen LPGA player of the year.

Still, she's been criticized -- even by some peers -- for showing far more game than personality.

"Those people are trying to make me a person that I'm not," Webb said. "I'm not an overly outgoing person. That's just not my personality. So having to talk to different people and strangers every week is something I've had to learn to deal with and mature with as I've gone and grown up.

"I've made no secrets that this part of my job, for me, is tough. I want to try my very best to do it, not so much for me as for the LPGA, because I know the attention that I get to the way I play the game is going to help them in the long run."

Maybe that's the way she can most identify with Tiger Woods, whose personality always has been under more scrutiny than his performance.

"He went through a stage where he was (criticized for being) too emotional," Webb said, "and last year he got criticized at the PGA for not being emotional enough. ... I get criticized for not showing enough emotion on the golf course, but you wouldn't be talking to either of us if we did anything differently. If we changed the way we were to make other people happy, we wouldn't be the people that we are. We wouldn't be as successful."

Webb likes the variety of shots that are needed at Eagle's Landing and the emphasis placed on the tee ball. Just looking at the list of champions -- Laura Davies, Liselotte Neumann, Dottie Pepper, Rachel Hetherington -- indicates the demands of the golf course.

Except for No. 3, which the members play as a 434-yard par-4 and the LPGA makes a short par-5, there are no cheap holes on the course.

"You have to be able to work the ball off the tee a little bit and into the greens," Webb said. "I feel that I'm pretty capable of doing that."


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