Webb can't find birdies to fix earlier damage

Updated: July 5, 2002, 11:49 PM ET
Associated Press

HUTCHINSON, Kan. -- Shortly after she finished with a 12-foot par putt that didn't matter, Karrie Webb slipped on her tennis shoes and walked briskly through the parking lot at Prairie Dunes Country Club early Friday afternoon.

It already was time to leave the U.S. Women's Open.

Two days ago, Webb thought she had an excellent chance to win an unprecedented three consecutive titles. After making only one birdie in 36 holes, she left wondering what happened to her game in the tournament she has dominated the last two years.

''I'm just going to let this one go,'' Webb said. ''Hopefully, this is just one week.''

What a week to forget.

The 27-year-old Aussie opened with a 9-over 79, her worst round ever in America. She followed that up with a 73 Friday, playing the final seven holes realizing she had little chance of even making it to the weekend.

Webb joined some exclusive company, just not the kind she had in mind.

The last woman with a chance to win three consecutive Opens was Annika Sorenstam in 1997 at Pumpkin Ridge. She also missed the cut.

Also, her early departure meant every defending U.S. Open champion missed the cut this year -- Retief Goosen at Bethpage Black and Bruce Fleisher at the U.S. Senior Open also failed to qualify for the weekend.

Was it the pressure of making history? Webb shook her head.

''I've always done well under pressure,'' she said. ''The biggest shock for me was that normally I thrive on that. And this time, I went the other way.''

Webb won her first Women's Open at the Merit Club near Chicago by five shots, then added an eight-stroke victory last year at Pine Needles.

Whatever chance she had this week was gone after a 79 in the opening round. She figured she needed even-par 70 Friday to at least make the cut, but bogeyed the opening hole and followed with 10 consecutive pars.

Her tournament essentially ended on No. 12.

After missing the fairway with an iron and playing short of the green, Webb hit a respectable pitch to about 10 feet and tracked her par putt all the way to the hole, until it rippled over the right lip.

Webb dropped her putter and doubled over in disbelief. As she walked off the green, she flipped her putter and then slammed the handle into her shoe and snatched the scorecard from caddie Mike Paterson, cursing her fate as she went along.

''I knew I had to make two birdies the rest of the way, and I had only made one in the whole tournament,'' Webb said. ''When you need two and you've only made one, it doesn't seem possible.''

Two holes later, a perfect drive left her only a wedge into the 14th green. She followed it toward the flag, then flipped her club in disgust when the gallery behind the green scattered to get out of the way. Another bogey.

The Women's Open ended her streak of 56 consecutive cuts, dating to the Safeway Championship on Sept. 25, 1999, in Portland, Ore.

''It's been almost three years since I missed a cut,'' she said. ''Obviously, it's not the best time to missed one, but it's over now. Hopefully, it's another three years before I miss another one.''

Before she could leave, Webb was reaching for her money clip.

She had wagered $5 with U.S. Golf Association spokesman Craig Smith that she would end up with an even-numbered score each day.

Rounds of 79-73 were costly in more ways than one.

Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press