GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — Ending a two-year drought on the LPGA Tour wasn’t on Karrie Webb’s mind in the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Winning one for her seriously ill grandmother was.
Webb, who nearly returned home to Australia on Thursday when her parents informed her that her grandmother, Marion Webb, was near death, delivered some welcome medicine Sunday, rallying from five shots down for a two-stroke victory and her 39th career tour win — most among active players.
“She talked to me on the phone and said she didn’t want me to come home, and that I had to win one for her,” the teary-eyed Webb said after digging deep to overcome the blustery conditions that derailed almost everyone in the field on wind-whipped Bay Course at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club.
Webb knew winning wasn’t going to be easy. While she has had occasional good rounds on this course across the bay from the Atlantic City casino resort, the Hall of Famer has never really seriously contended on the final day.
“I was like, this isn’t the one that you tell me that I have to win for you because I was like, ‘I’ve never really even had a shot to win here,’” Webb said. “So when I got off to that start, I was like, ‘Oh, my God. ‘ Well, when she started to make a turn for the better, my dad said, ‘Look, she’s going to make it, so the pressure is off, you know. ‘He felt for me after she told me I had to win it for her. But you know, I was in contention and in the lead today. I was like, ‘Wow, I might actually be able to do this for her.’”
Webb won by shooting a magnificent 3-under 68 to finish with a 4-under 209 total, tying the highest winning score at the course.
Playing in wind gusting to 25 to 30 mph, Webb had two birdies, an eagle and a bogey, capping the round with a 5-foot birdie at the par-5 final hole. She also made six par-saving putts of 5-6 feet in matching the best round of the day.
“It never gets old. It never gets any easier, either,” said Webb, who won the Australian Ladies Masters in February. “Today was extremely tough, and I’m just glad that I pulled it out. I think coming down I knew I needed to make one birdie, I thought, because I didn’t think I could just par in and feel comfortable, so great birdie on the last.”
Shanshan Feng was second. Feng, who led by three shots entering the final round, struggled in the wind and finished with a 75. She had two double bogeys on the front 9, and gave away the lead with bogeys on the 11th and 13th holes.
Feng, who became the first Chinese player to win an LPGA Tour event and a major when she captured the LPGA Championship last year, gave credit to Webb.
“I would say 68 is a really, really great score for today,” said Feng, who broke in a new set of clubs this week. “I would say actually four over didn’t sound too bad to me. But maybe that’s why I’ve never played well in the British Open. Yet.”
The final round played out somewhat like a U.S. Open with the elements, the dried-out fast greens and the fescue-lined fairways working like a demolition derby on the 74 players who qualified for the final round.
Webb, who got back into contention with a 69 in the second round, made her move early, rolling in a 25-foot birdie putt on the difficult 420-yard second hole that might have been the toughest on the course with the wind blowing into the players’ faces off Reed’s Bay. She moved into a share of the lead on the par-5 third, rolling in a 6-foot eagle.
“I think I knuckle down and focus a lot better when conditions are tough,” Webb said.
Feng, who fell into a tie with Webb early, regained the lead with a short birdie at the eighth hole. but bogeys at the 11th and 13th holes put Webb 1-up.
Webb’s birdie at the 18th hole pushed the margin to two shots. Feng closed within a shot with a short birdie putt at No. 16 but she hit her tee shot in the bunker at the next hole and bogeyed. She needed an eagle at the par-5 final hole but had to settle for par.
Jenny Shin of South Korea, who had four straight birdies on the back nine, finished fourth at even par after a 70.
Rookie Chie Arimura, who was tied for the lead on the front nine, finished in a group at 1 over. Despite a final round 74, Michelle Wie event, had her best finish of the year, finishing in a group at 2 over.
“Overall I fought hard, and I’m pretty proud of the way I played this week and I think it’s a good week leading up to a major, so I’m just excited to get over there and play well,” said Wie, who is still looking for her first LPGA Tour win in the United States.
There were only 13 rounds under par on the final day and those with early tee-off times benefited. Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer also shot 68 to tie Webb for the best round of the day and it allowed them to move from a tie for 58th to a tie for 13th.
Feng will defend her LPGA Championship in Pittsford, N.Y., next week.