Originally created 06/19/03

As Sorenstam surges ahead, Webb tries to keep her focus



ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Annika Sorenstam tests her mettle against the men, kickboxes to boost her stamina and wins more LPGA tournaments in one year than top rival Karrie Webb thought possible.

It's been difficult for Webb to keep up, yet the Australian who dominated the women's golf tour in 1999 and 2000 insists she's focusing on her own game instead of glancing over at the sizzling Swede's.

"That's just the way I approach things. I never really motivated myself by another person," Webb said Wednesday, a day before she was to tee off in the Rochester LPGA, one of only two tournaments she won last year.

"Obviously, I'd love to be playing the way Annika is," she said. "I don't necessarily focus on just trying to beat her. I just try to get my game into the shape I want it and hopefully get myself into contention every week.

At the end of the 2001 season, Webb joked, "I'll eat my hat" if Sorenstam repeated as an eight-time winner. Sorenstam won 11 times last year, the most since Mickey Wright won 11 in 1964.

"She did prove me wrong," Webb said matter-of-factly. It set a mark "that I don't know if I'll ever be able to achieve."

Her rivalry with Sorenstam, once likened to the Jack Nicklaus-Tom Watson duel of two decades ago, has clearly faded, and the signs of late don't augur any sudden change for the better.

Voted LPGA Player of the Year in 1999 and 2000 when she had 13 victories, Webb managed three wins in 2001 and the British Open, her sixth major championship, along with this tournament last year.

The British Open victory made her the first player to capture the "Super Slam" - winning the four tournaments now regarded as majors and the du Maurier, which lost its major status in 2000 after 21 years.

But her fall from the heights shook the foundations - she was dropped by Titleist, her primary sponsor.

"I've got quite a few more years left out here, so I'm just going to continue to work hard and take my success when I can," Webb said.

So far this year, Webb has five top-10 finishes in nine outings, but has failed to win. Sorenstam, who is skipping Rochester for the third year in a row, has three wins, including a major, and drew the brightest spotlight playing at the PGA Tour's Colonial in May.

Webb isn't following in her footsteps.

"I just don't see drawing that much attention to myself," she said. "I'd just rather deal with the pressures that I already am accustomed to."

She added: "I don't think I hit the ball long enough to fairly compete against the guys. There's always going to be a strength difference there, and the men are always going to hit the golf ball farther than you."