Photo courtesy of LPGA
Karrie Webb says she wants to repay officials for granting her a rare special exemption in the US Women's Open, by turning on a vintage display as she extends her record appearance at the event.
In March, organisers at the United States Golf Association granted the two-time champion a special exemption into the event which starts later this evening at Shoal Creek in Alabama.
After the 10-year exemption for her 2001 victory expired with the 2011 edition, Webb has earned her place in the field through other exemption categories each year since.
But having cut back significantly on her playing schedule in 2018 and having played only three LPGA Tour events this year, the 43-year-old needed a lifeline.
Webb, who already owned the previous record of 22 straight appearances, will now make her 23rd US Women’s Open appearance this week.
Arguably Australia's greatest golfer, the seven-time major winner says she is honoured to be able to add another US Open to her tally.
"It's not something that you ever set out to do but it is special to have competed at so many (US Women's Opens)," Webb said
“I'm very happy to be here,” “I'm thankful to the USGA for granting me the special exemption. The U.S. Open is a special golf tournament. I think it is the ultimate in our sport. Anyone would want a U.S. Open on their résumé. I'm very grateful to the USGA for granting me a special exemption to continue my streak."
In recent years special exemptions have been granted to Se Ri Pak in 2016, Juli Inkster in 2013 and Laura Davies in 2009.
Webb insists she is not teeing up at Shoal Creek to make up the numbers, her confidence lifted by a tie for 19th place at the Kingsmill Championship two weeks ago.
"Having only played a few events this year, I definitely come into the US Open as fresh as ever," Webb said.
"I had a solid (result) in my last start, so I'm hoping to build on that this week.
"My game feels good so I don't see why I can't play well this week."
“I think this week it will test our patience in different areas,” she said. “I was fortunate, I played 18 holes Monday morning. I was in Florida Sunday, so I already knew what was coming,”
Historically Webb has a fantastic record of playing well on tough golf courses and in tough conditions and will hope that her experience and her class will take her a long way this week.
The tournament has endured an extremely soggy start with the remnants of Hurricane Alberto forcing officials to close Shoal Creek entirely on Tuesday and for much of the day on Wednesday, with the forecast remaining unsettled for the rest of the week.
"It will still be challenging but it won't be the firm, bouncy conditions we're used to at the US Open." Webb said
While Webb’s experience will surely count for a lot this week, it is Minjee Lee who looks to be Australia's best hope this week and comes to Shoal Creek full of confidence, with the 22-year-old West Australian bagging her fourth title on the LPGA Tour at last week's LPGA Volvik Championship in Michigan. Despite just two top-10 results from 20 starts in major championships, Lee finished a creditable 11th place in 2017, and there is no doubt she possesses all of the credentials to be a genuine contender this week.
Fellow Australian Su Oh enters Shoal Creek coming off a share of fourth place in Michigan, her best LPGA finish in more than a year, while Queenslander Katherine Kirk will play her 14th US Women's Open looking to improve on her previous best finish of 25th.
Kirk narrowly missed out on claiming her first major championship in 2017 after finishing just one shot out of a playoff at the Evian Championship. If Kirk’s putter gets hot and she is driving it well she could easily find herself at the pointy end of the leaderboard this week.
Sarah Jane Smith and Sarah Kemp will also be teeing it up this week, along with Gold Coast amateur Robyn Choi who like Kemp went through the rigours of a 36-hole pre-qualifying event to make it into the field this week.
Live scoring can be found at usga.org or lpga.com
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