Karrie makes it eight at Royal Pines

The drums were beating well before Karrie Webb had completed her third and final round of the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters at the Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast.

And so it would prove on a dramatic final day when the 38 year old Queenslander produced a final round of 67 (the best of the day) to pass and defeat those who had dared to threaten her reign as Queen of Royal Pines.

Even a missed four footer at the final hole was not enough to dampen what had been a gripping final day. With the breeze a little stronger than it had been earlier in the week, the golf course was playing a little more difficult on day three and even the winner took well into the back nine to reel in the likes of 16 year old Su Hyun Oh, 17 year old Ariya Jutanugarn, Jessica Korda and Stacey Keating.

Jutanugarn, Oh and Chella Choi tied for second position two shots behind the winner while currrent Australian Open Champion Jessica Korda finished alone in 5th position and bright Australian hope, Stacey Keating, was 6th.

Despite being only the third highest ranked player in the field this week, there was enough evidence to suggest that the already seven time winner could take out her eighth Australian Ladies Masters title and move within one of the greatest record of either gender in tournament golf world wide. She equalled the record of American great, Sam Snead, and moved within one of Australian legend, Peter Thomson who in won nine New Zealand Opens.

While Webb birdied three of her last five holes, she would later say that it was a par save at the 10th that was perhaps the most important point of the round. "I think the key to my round was an up and down on 10. I had a long bunker shot there, played a really good shot there, made a good putt and then when I got on the 12th green I knew I had to make that putt otherwise I just didn't have any momentum going. To get from nine to 10, 10 under (which her birdie did for her) looked better on the leader board than nine did."

The telling blow, though, appeared to come at the par three 14th where she chipped in from behind the green for birdie. "I put my best swing of the day on a 6 iron, a little 6 iron into 14 and felt a little ripped off that it had gone over the back. It was a fairly simple chip and not many times do I feel like I can actually feel confident that I'm going to chip this one in, so when it landed, I started walking it in pretty early."

Webb would go on to birdie par five 15th and removed virtually all doubt when she holed a 14 footer for one final birdie at the 17th. By then she was three ahead and barring a miracle she would be the winner.

Oh did remarkably well for a player of such limited experience at this level to hold on and finish in a share of second with Jutanugarn and Chella Choi. Oh actually had the outright lead until she took double bogey from virtually nowhere at the 12th and the dropped another at the 13th and 14th. To all intents and purposes she appeared to be spiralling downwards but further highlighted her amazing potential with three birdies in her last four holes to share second position.

When asked if her response to an SOS from tournament organiser Bob Tuohy to even play the event this year made winning all that more special Webb responded, "Yeah, definitely but I play hard in every event so it doesn't matter what event I play, when I put it on my schedule I'm going to give 100 per cent.

"This tournament has got so many great memories for me and just to add some more, obviously, it's very special. There was a little bit of extra motivation last night to hear that I could go in the history books and tie Sam Snead's record, I'd never even thought about that, and hopefully the finish of this golf tournament will help," she added referring to the fact that the tournament had been bought back from possible demise just a few months earlier.

"I've had seven other times that I've won and I think some years it's helped and some it hasn't. Women's golf in Australia, the health of women's golf has to have at least two major professional events that are on TV - it just has to. If those go away, young girls don't get to watch a lot of professional golf, women's professional golf on TV and we definitely need this one to stay around."

Had there been any thought by Webb that her task might have been made easier this year due to the inexperience of those who led her into the final round. "Not really. I think when you under estimate someone because of their age, I think that's when they go and win. Just like Lydia Ko did last year in Canada. I was sitting in the clubhouse watching the end of that tournament and I think we all thought at one point she was going to make a mistake and she never did.

"I never under estimate whoever I'm playing against. They're in the field for a reason and everyone's capable of playing well on their given week. Just because they're a new name or a younger name, I really didn't want to focus on their rounds today and just go and try and shoot as low as I could."

Webb was asked how her victory might play a part in rebuilding the event to its former glory. "Obviously I'm going to be defending champion next year, so Bob (tournament organiser Bob Tuohy) can breathe a sigh of relief and know that I'll be back. It's hard to know what more I can do. I've won it eight times. We've had some high moments with the tournament being an LPGA event and seen it not as healthy as we would like. So hopefully with the younger girls coming through, I think people get sick of Karrie Webb a little bit. If there are a couple more Aussies with good stories coming through, and I think this week has really shown that, then I think that will create a lot more interest in the event.

Webb now turns her attention to Royal Canberra and the Australian Women's Open in two weeks time where she will attempt to conquer a considerably stronger field than the one she defeated this week. With the knowledge that she is swinging and hitting the ball as well as ever then she is likely to start as not only the sentimental favourite but the favourite with odds makers also.

She highlighted her confidence in her own game. "I don't want to raise my expectations too high, I think it tends to back fire on me a little bit and I put a bit too much pressure on myself, but the one thing that feels really good to me is how comfortable I feel on the golf course. I'm able to dismiss negative thoughts or nervy thoughts pretty easily and just commit to my shot. I have to say, I have had patches of not being able to do that over the last few years, so it feels good to feel relaxed.

"I still grind over the four and five footers like anybody else and you still get a little bit worked up on one or two of those occasionally but for the most part I felt really good out there and that's really what I've been working towards. So hopefully with how my good my swing has felt, it will just continue from there."

Oh led the amateurs ahead of Australian Amateur Champion Min Jee lee who finished a distant second in that category, some nine shots behind the 16 year old from Melbourne.

Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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