Age isn’t important to Karrie Webb.
“I really don’t think about that someone is 18, or that I am 40 - I’ll say it,” said Webb after her round Friday.
In a season that’s been dominated by the under-30, and even under-20 sect, the 40-year-old Aussie sits one back of 22-year-old leader Sei Young Kim heading into the weekend at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Tied for second with Inbee Park, Webb is one ahead of Brooke M. Henderson who wasn’t even born when Webb last won this championship in 2001.
“I was in high school when I was Brooke Henderson,” Webb said. “It’s fun to watch the young kids play because I know I used to be that fearless, and that’s probably the only thing I wish I had.”
Fearlessness propelled Kerr to 41 victories and seven major championships on the LPGA Tour in her 19-years on Tour. She went head-to-head with one of the game’s greats in Annika Sorenstam for more than 10 years, with the two winning 58% of the majors between 2000 and 2006, six of those belonging to Webb. While her rival chose to retire, Webb has continued on, contending year to year, including winning twice last season. Webb is looking for her first win of 2015, coming close with three top-11 finishes including a T-5 in her last start at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. With opening rounds of 68 – 71 at Westchester Country Club, Webb says she feels like her game is finally catching up with her expectations.
“It’s been what I’ve been expecting to see a lot sooner than this week,” said Webb. “I definitely think my game is as good as it’s ever been. It’s just a matter of getting out of my own way and allowing that to happen.”
It’s been nine years since Webb won her last major championship at the 2006 ANA Inspiration, then Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she came from a record tying seven strokes back to win. Should Webb win this week, she would become the second major winner of the season, making her eligible for the Rolex Annika Major Award, which recognizes the top performing major winner of the year.
Webb wouldn’t be the first to win another major after nearly a decade. Four other major champions like Webb waited nine years between major victories. Juli Inkster went 10 years without a major between 1989 and 1999. The longest major drought on the LPGA Tour was 13 years for Sherri Steinhauer, who won the 1992 du Maurier Classic and the 2006 Ricoh Women’s British Open. Like Steinhauer and Inkster, Webb still has the game to win.
“That’s why I’m still out here. If I didn’t think that I could, I wouldn’t even be trying,” Webb said.
While some of the daring play may have faded with the years it’s been replaced with a knowledge and sense of self she’ll be relying on this weekend.
“As you get older and through experience and it doesn’t matter what we’re doing, we all lose that little bit of fearlessness that we have when we were young,” said Webb. “But I think for me, the experience of knowing myself very well and what I need to do to play well is just as important.”
Webb is paired in the final group with 22-year old playing partner and rookie Sei Young Kim. The two tee off at 1:50pm Saturday afternoon.