Golf: Webb tips Ko for strong showing

Lydia Ko. Photo / Getty Images
Lydia Ko. Photo / Getty Images

Australian Hall of Fame golfer Karrie Webb is expecting New Zealand sensation Lydia Ko to be a contender at the weekend in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Ko has already won three professional events at her tender age.

"It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Lydia Ko's name high up on the leaderboard," Webb said.

"She's proven herself time and time again in professional events and I think this course will actually suit her well because you have to hit the ball pretty straight off the tee and she does that."

Having said that, two-time winner Webb feels ready to dive into Poppies Pond for a third time at the first women's major championship of the year.

The championship, which gets under way at Rancho Mirage in California early tomorrow, is the closest thing the women's game has to the Masters.

Established in 1972 and classified as a major since 1983, it mirrors the Masters in being the year's opening major, held at the same course every year and having a unique tradition for the winner.

While the victor at Augusta National get a green jacket, the champion at Mission Hills Country Club jumps into the lake surrounding the 18th green known as Poppies Pond.

Webb comes in off a tie for sixth at the LPGA Tour's Kia Classic where she was two-shots out of a playoff after a poor final round 74.

Despite winning 53 times in almost 20 years as a tour pro, Webb says what happened over the last few holes provided a valuable lesson.

"I really was still in it with a few holes to go but I got really frustrated with a few outside things, a few things that were going on in our group on the course that I won't elaborate on but that I let beat me," she said.

"You'd think with all my years of experience I'd be able to overcome that but the next day that's probably what I was most disappointed about.

"If I'm ever close to that sort of thing again I'll know I need to handle things different."

Webb, 38, earned her seven major championship titles over seven years but it's been seven years since she captured her last one.

That was at the Kraft Nabisco, where she also took the Poppies Pond plunge in 2000, and where she has achieved her most consistent major results with eight top-10s in 17 starts.

"I'm confident this week. My game has been pretty good lately," Webb said.

"It's one of my favourite events of the year. I think it's a combination of the course suiting my game and the atmosphere of the event.

"There is a lot of history to the event, the players know and the crowd loves it."

Webb cruised to victory in 2000, winning by 10 strokes, but needed to fire a final round seven-under 65, including a hole out wedge shot for eagle on the 18th, to get into a playoff in 2006 with Lorena Ochoa.

- AAP

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