Karrie Webb is one year older than Tiger Woods, and four years younger than Phil Mickelson.
Unlike those two superstars, Webb is healthy, winning and leading her tour’s money list going into the first major of the year.
For the women, that’s the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Rancho Mirage in California starting on Thursday.
In February, Webb won for the 40th time on the US LPGA Tour at the Women’s Australian Open. Two weeks ago, she rallied from a six-shot deficit in Arizona to win the Founders Cup. Webb might already have a third win if not for closing with a 74 in Singapore to miss a playoff by one shot.
Still, this already is the 10th multiple-win season of her career, and the tour is only six events into the season.
Webb is not one for hyperbole, so she is not about to say this is as good as she has ever played. This is a player who completed the career Grand Slam quicker than anyone, male or female, by winning all four majors in a span of seven starts.
“I’ve played a lot of good golf in my career,” she said on Monday.
“I can’t say what I’m doing now is better than another time. I understand my game more than I ever have. I understand on any given day what I’ve got for that day. And that allows me to understand how to score.
“I didn’t always have that ability.”
Webb has won 41 times over 19 years, dating to her victory in the 1995 Women’s British Open when she was a 20-year-old out of Australia. Only five other women in tour history have stretched out their wins over a longer period.
What she has is longevity on a tour that is becoming increasingly younger.
Webb has won 41 times over 19 years, dating to her victory in the 1995 Women’s British Open when she was a 20-year-old. Only five other women in tour history have stretched out their wins over a longer period.
“It’s actually one of the things I’m most proud of in my career,” said the retired Beth Daniel, who won over a 24-year span, “because I was able to stay at a high level for a long period of time.”
She and Webb are close friends, both residents of South Florida, and Daniel sees the amount of time Webb puts in at the gym and on the golf course.
Daniel is surprised by anyone making a fuss over Webb already winning twice this year and being No. 5 in the world.
What should anyone expect from a player good enough to get into the U.S. LPGA Hall of Fame at age 30?
At 39, Webb’s age is noteworthy only because everyone around her is so young.
Consider the top 10 players in the women’s world ranking. Two of them are teenagers (Lydia Ko, 16, and Lexi Thompson, 19). Everyone else is in their 20s except for Suzann Pettersen, ancient at 32. The average age of the women’s top 10 is 26. The average age of the men’s top 10 is 33.5.
You’ve got to have that desire, that passion. You’ve got to hate playing bad – Webby has that.
Juli Inkster, who went 23 years between her first and last win and still plays, surely spoke from her own experience when she explained why Webb is still going strong.
“You’ve got to have that desire, that passion. You’ve got to hate playing bad,” Inkster said. “Webby has that.
“Some people are satisfied with making money and getting out, and others are satisfied by winning.
“Webby has done it right. She respects the game. She respects the older players. She wears her emotions on her sleeve and she’s hard on herself, but she’s got a huge heart.”
Webb pays enough attention to U.S. LPGA Tour history to know that Meg Mallon won a U.S. Women’s Open and two other tournaments when she was 41. And that Inkster won three majors after turning 39.
She still gets too hard on herself, but not like when she was younger.
“There was a time when I woke up every day and said, ‘How am I going to be the best in the world?”‘ she said. “Now it’s more like, ‘How can I be as good as I can be?”‘