Originally created 06/02/01

Webb beats the rain, takes the lead



SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- Storms took over the U.S. Women's Open on Friday. First came a clap of thunder from Karrie Webb, then a deluge of rain that turned the second round into a marathon for those chasing her.

At the end of a wet and tiresome day, Webb was in an ideal spot - the early leader after a 5-under 65, out of the elements and with plenty of time to rest.

That's not the case for Annika Sorenstam and 104 other players who must return to soggy Pine Needles at dawn Saturday and face as many as 36 holes, or however many holes time allows.

"She's loving it," A.J. Eathorne of Canada said. "She got her round in and can just kind of sit back and wait for everyone else to finish out tomorrow. I don't think there's anyone out here in this field that wouldn't trade places with her right now."

No one would mind having Webb's round, either.

With a 75-foot chip that dropped for birdie and a wedge that stopped 10 inches from the cup for another, Webb reminded the field why she is the defending champion, the winner of three of the past six majors and still an intimidating presence.

"It doesn't surprise me at all," Rosie Jones said. "She's hungry for a win this year, and she's standing at attention right now. Got my attention."

Webb was at 5-under 135, a two-stroke advantage over Eathorne and Cindy Figg-Currier, who shared the first-round lead at 3-under 67 and didn't give back any strokes.

Not that they had much time.

Eathorne, whose tee time already was delayed by approaching storms, final got in two holes and scratched out pars when play was stopped for 33 minutes. She got in two more holes when the siren sounded and rain pelted Pine Needles.

When she returns at 7 a.m., she has about a 10-footer for par. The distance is tough to measure because she marked her ball with a coin that no doubt has been blown away. Rules of Golf allow her to replace it as close to the spot as possible.

Figg-Currier had an easier time. She was among 30 players who never teed off.

Then there was Morgan Pressel, the 13-year-old from Florida. She made it to the weekend, but only because rain kept her from finishing her last two holes. The precocious teen was 7-over par for the round, 14 over for the tournament.

"I have to get up early," she shrugged. "I want to finish my experience here. I want to finish my round."

Kendra Graham, director of women's competitions for the USGA, said play would resume at 7 a.m. and the third round would start as soon as possible, with threesomes going off both sides a possibility.

The greens figure to be exceptionally soft, taking some of the challenge out of the domed greens designed by Donald Ross. Then again, the course also will play long.

Either way, it has proven to be difficult, as only five players remained under par. Mi Hyun Kim was at 2 under through four holes, while Se Ri Pak remained 1 under after getting two holes in.

Juli Inkster struggled off the tee and had a 72, slamming her visor against a pine as she left the scoring trailer. She was at 140, along with Kristi Albers (69).

Sorenstam, who is going for the second leg of the Grand Slam, bogeyed the second hole and was 1 over for the tournament.

Such scoring only made Webb's round that much more impressive.

"You don't expect to go out on a U.S. Open course and shoot 65, especially not this one," Webb said. "Having done so really sets me up well for the weekend."

Webb felt she just as easily could have posted in the first round instead of a 70. It was all a matter of putts falling, and Webb had to endure a little more frustration early Friday.

"Once I got a couple of putts to drop, it made the hole look a bit bigger," she said.

The hole hardly looked like a manhole on No. 2 after Webb was fooled by the wind and left her 6-iron a few yards short of the green. She would have settled for getting the chip within 5 feet of the cup, but instead watched it bend gently to the left and drop for birdie.

"When you're playing well, some of those things happen," she said.

The first of three rain delays came at the worst time for Webb. After saving par from the bunker on No. 3, she ripped another drive and hit a sand wedge that checked up about 10 inches from the cup.

Before she could tap in for birdie, she was forced to sit in a van for 30 minutes. That didn't keep her from making the putt, but she worried about losing her momentum.

Three times a runner-up this year, Webb has faulted herself for losing concentration during a round or missing crucial par-saving putts right when she's getting on a roll. There were no such worries this time.

"I didn't want to think too much about whether that would stop it," she said. "I made the putt, put a good swing on the next one and was back in the same groove."

After a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 6, Webb finished up with three pars and looked to the skies at the end of her round when she felt a raindrop on her shoulder.

Dark skies were a sign that it could be a long weekend for several players. Webb's name atop the leaderboard was just as ominous.