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Jul 09

Women’s Open – Webb and Alex

Karrie Webb and Second Year Player Marina Alex Share Lead

webb 2 Marina Alex swears up and down that she is comfortable with this arrangement. It’s an enviable one, sharing the lead of the U.S. Women’s Open following action on the first day. Bearing in mind that almost everyone is a kid to me, I am both impressed and amused by Alex’s protestations that she is also experienced. She did play in the Open as an amateur, a “nervous kid,” as she described it, even though she missed the cut. She wanted to play in the Open. Winning it then was a little far-fetched. Ok, I’ll accept that. It’s a job well done so far. She’s sharing the lead with Karrie Webb, the veteran, and win-oriented Australian.

I, for one, would still be a nervous kid, being aware of the proportions of the event, with the eyes of LPGA fans on me all over the country. I would also be nervous about the field, and in particular, the one heading it, and sharing the lead. Karrie Webb is not a kid, but she’s no emeritus player, either. She won twice in 2014 (Founders Cup and Australian Open), and won the Shoprite in 2013. She’s been doing a lot of winning since the mid-90s, and still has game – lots of it.
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webb 1Webb is the leading active player in terms of tour wins, 41 of them, featuring seven majors. But, if the young star out of Vanderbilt, who is just coming off some time in the shop redesigning the swing a bit, is comfortable, who am I to say otherwise? Sharing the lead with Webb, though, brings other visuals to my mind – what does the rookie actor just out of college feel like being cast in the supporting lead with Laurence Olivier? How did collegiate golfers feel being paired with Jack Nicklaus? Being assigned to a physics project of national import with Nicolai Tesla? Yeah, I’d still be plenty nervous.
Alex also says that he won’t be watching the leaderboard. I think that would be something akin to Lot’s wife turning around to see what’s happened to Sodom and Gomorrah, or Orpheus resisting a little peck on the cheek bringing Euridice out of the underworld, if only he can avoid looking back. If it sounds as if I’m being rough on Alex, it’s just teasing. Anyone who shoots 66 in the U.S. Open ought to be there. There are other dangers in the field, though, that might emerge unexpectedly. Grab a share of the lead on day one, and the next three can seem like forever, especially if Webb is there.
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Morgan Pressel, once regaining her form, has stubbornly refused to fall out of it. She’s a threat every single week, and she understands the importance of this tournament as well as anyone. Lydia Ko is only a few back, and everyone knows what she’s capable of doing out of the blue. Azahara Munoz has kept her winning ways since coming out of a period of injury for a while. Even defending champion Michelle Wie, who apparently has disappointed on the first day out, but she doesn’t seem deflated about it. She observes that “you can’t win a tournament on day one, but you can sure lose it.” She kept it together just well enough to remain in the conversation, and I for one hope she stays there. Even Webb started out with a ho-hum round, only to go on what one author called a “birdie blitz” on the back nine.

Even with the scary Australian around, Alex is still holding a club just like everyone else, and all things are possible. The giant and the newcomer is a fun scenario, although no one can tell whether the Webb/Alex rivalry is in full bloom yet. It may be gone tomorrow.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.