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Webb gets win; Sorenstam gets records

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- No one played better than Karrie Webb. No one looked happier than Annika Sorenstam.

The best two women golfers shared the spoils Sunday in the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship, where Webb capped off a year of big wins with a 4-under 68 on tough, blustery Trump International for a two-stroke victory over Sorenstam.

So why did Sorenstam have a spring in her step and a smile on her face as she walked down the 18th fairway?

The tournament seemed out of reach, and so did her goal of setting the LPGA record for lowest scoring average. Holding nothing back, Sorenstam put on a tremendous charge by playing the final 10 holes in 6-under.

She hit her magic number -- 65 -- that gave her a season average of 69.42 to break the record that Webb set two years ago by .01 strokes.

"I'm walking on clouds," Sorenstam said. "I pretty much knew what I had to shoot today. Knowing the conditions and the course, I knew it would be a tough thing to do. But I wasn't going to let it go if I had a chance. To play the back nine in 5-under is a miracle."

It almost was enough for her ninth victory of the year.

Trailing by five strokes with four holes to play, Sorenstam hit a 7-wood to 12 feet and made eagle on No. 15, then hit an 8-iron from 156 yards to 4 feet for birdie on No. 17.

She pumped her fist and let out a yell when the birdie putt dropped, knowing she was at her magic number -- 7-under. Only after her two-putt for par on the 18th did Sorenstam learn that 6-under would have broken the record by the narrowest of margins.

"All that work, and then they tell me," she joked.

Sorenstam thought a 65 would be good enough to win, but Webb was too tough.

The 26-year-old hit the ball pure in a wind that required every shot to be struck almost perfectly. She led by at least three strokes until the very end, then watched from the 17th tee as Sorenstam holed her birdie putt to cut the margin to two strokes.

The 17th is where so many hopes this week were drowned in either the water right of the green or the stream to the left, which cuts behind the green under a waterfall. Unfazed, Webb hit 7-iron to 12 feet for a routine par.

Then on the 18th, with bunkers left and a large lake down the right side, Webb split the fairway for a stress-free walk to her 26th career victory.

"I've had a good year, and to finish it off with a win really tops it off," Webb said.

She finished at 9-under 279 and won $215,000 for her third victory of the year.

All of them were big -- a U.S. Open by eight strokes, the LPGA Championship by three strokes to make her the youngest to win the career Grand Slam, and the Tyco/ADT Championship with a score that belied how difficult the conditions were.

Sorenstam finished at 281. No one else broke par.

"At any other regular event, it would have been close to 20-under," Webb said.

Janice Moodie, playing with Webb in the final group, three-putted three times on the front nine and never had a chance. She closed with a 74 and finished at 288. Rose Jones had a 73 and finished another stroke back.

Along with setting the scoring record, Sorenstam earned $115,000 to become the first $2 million woman in golf. She finished her record-setting season with $2,105,868.

Webb went over the $1.5 million mark for the third straight season.

She had a three-stroke lead at the start of the round, and was aggressive from the start with an approach into 10 feet for birdie at No. 1 and a 5-wood from 212 yards directly into a 15-mph gust that cleared a water hazard and hit 2 feet from the hole, rolling to the fringe. She two-putted for birdie and was on her way.

So relaxed was Webb that she made a detour on her way to the 10th tee to check out the score in the New York Jets-Miami Dolphins game that was on a big screen.

"I've got season tickets," Webb said. "If I wasn't playing, I'd be there."

Leading by four shots at the turn, Webb hit her approach to the 10th right over the water and right at the flag, just clearing the hazard for a 15-foot birdie putt. No matter what Sorenstam was doing ahead of her, Webb had an answer.

Divots

  • Juli Inkster finished her round and was surrounded by children when she heard a man say, "Mrs. Inkster, can I get your autograph?" It was Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod grew up in Miami, and was at the Florida State-Florida football game Saturday night in Gainesville.

  • Sophie Gustafson made a hole-in-one on the 17th hole with an 8-iron. It was the second of her career, and won her a two-year lease on a BMW.

  • Inkster had an early idea how tough the wind would be. On the practice range, she sent caddie Greg Johnston to the car to get her 3-iron and took her 7-wood out of play.

  • Webb became the first two-time winner of the Tour Championship, which started in 1996.