Two-Time Women’s Open Champ Webb Hoping Less Leads to More May 31, 2018 | SHOAL CREEK, Ala. By Julie Williams

The most recent player to win consecutive U.S. Women's Opens, Karrie Webb is lightening her workload. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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Karrie Webb never imagined herself a part-time golfer. The foundation of her 22-year LPGA Tour career has been hard work, but that doesn’t mean that Webb, now 43, isn’t ready to do a little experimenting.

“I have always been a grinder and practicer,” she said on the eve of the 73rd U.S. Women’s Open Championship at Shoal Creek. “I have had a relatively good schedule for many years.”

For many professional athletes, competition is all about the routine and doing what feels comfortable. For Webb, going against that motto has forced a change in mindset. Without the grind she has known for so long, will competitive life still be fulfilling?

Webb is one of only seven players to win back-to-back Women’s Opens (2000-01). Since finishing fourth at this event in her 1997 debut, Webb has played the Women’s Open every year. She owns a longer appearance streak than any player in the field this week, topping Cristie Kerr, the 2007 Women’s Open champion, by two years.

Since Webb’s 10-year exemption from her 2001 victory expired, she has still managed to earn a spot in the field through some other exemption category. This year, the USGA extended Webb a special exemption. The last player to receive such an offer was Se Ri Pak in 2016, when the Women’s Open was played at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif. In recent years, the USGA has also granted special exemptions to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009).

The Women’s Open marks the fourth start of Webb’s 2018 season. The year began at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, where she missed the cut. She played twice on the LPGA Tour in the past three weeks, playing the two events that were shortened due to weather. Webb tied for 19th at the Kingsmill Championship (shortened to 54 holes) and tied for 46th at the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic (36 holes).

Webb jokes that she’s to blame for the black cloud that seems to be following LPGA Tour players around the country, but even that gives her an opportunity to reflect. Much has changed in the sport since Webb’s debut in the mid-1990s. As other players sweated the lack of preparation and practice rounds this week due to heavy rainfall, Webb referenced the abundance of available course information in other forms.

“Our yardage books and greens books and everything we have these days are so much better than 23 years ago, when I played my first U.S. Open,” Webb said.

At Shoal Creek, Webb reports a fresh feeling, in both mind and body.

“When I look at the block of tournaments that I have decided to play, I’m eager to play those,” she said. “It did not seem like the yearly, long grinds that I have done for the past 22, 23 years.”

A lighter schedule translates to more time at home in Australia. After she played the Australian Open in mid-February, Webb didn’t leave her homeland until the middle of April. It was the longest amount of time she has spent there in 22 years.

“Just being home felt good,” said Webb. “Being around my family and going to gymnastics and soccer matches. And one of my nieces plays golf, so playing golf with her. Just normal stuff with my family was enjoyable.”

Julie Williams is a Florida-based freelance writer.

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