PITTSFORD, NY - JUNE 9: Karrie Webb of Australia hits her third shot on the fourth hole during the third round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship at Locust Hill Country Club on June 9, 2012 in Pittsford, New York. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
A question a reporter would never ask Tiger or Phil raises the ire of seven-time major champion Karrie Webb.
Many of the 20-somethings may not be up on their golf history, and at least one scribe may wish to rephrase the question, but 2011 Kraft Nabisco champion Stacy Lewis knows full well why seven-time major titleholder Karrie Webb’s name on the leaderboard still means something.
“I think a lot of younger players don't quite know all the history of the game and really what she's done,” Lewis told reporters Saturday after carding a 2-under 70 to pull within two shots of 54-hole Wegmans LPGA Championship leader Eun-Hee Ji’s pace-setting 4-under.
“I know more of the history of the game, so I have a lot of respect for her,” said Lewis, who has come to appreciate the 37-year-old Webb as a mentor. “But I just think that a lot of the younger players maybe don't quite know what all she's done.”
With all the hoopla surrounding the kids -- including 17-year-old Lexi Thompson coming out for her first full-time season on tour; Tiger Woods’ niece, Cheyenne, turning pro last month; and young veterans like Lewis and Yani Tseng continuing to stand out -- Webb has taken a back seat to the young guns. Webb, herself, conceded that her name being listed among the frontrunners may not inspire the same respect it once did.
But, as the LPGA pointed out, the experienced Aussie who entered Sunday’s final round just one shot back of Ji after posting a 68 on Saturday, won her 37th and 38th career victories last season and is second only to Annika Sorenstam on the career money list. She has also been in the top 25 in each tour start this season.
So, you’ll excuse Webb if she took exception to a question from a reporter, who wondered what motivated a veteran of such advanced years to compete with the youngsters.
“Well, when Phil Mickelson was 37 do you think people were asking him that?” Webb responded. “So Tiger Woods is 36 and no one is asking him that?
“I still have the same drive as those two guys,” said a golfer who should not have to defend her competitiveness to anyone, no matter what her age. “I don't put the hours in just to be out here to make up the numbers. I want to have a chance to win and it feels great that I played well enough today that I have a shot tomorrow. I would love to hold the trophy up tomorrow. That's my goal every week. If I play well tomorrow I have a good chance.”
Webb was at a loss as to why she was fair game for the type of disrespectful queries no one would ever consider asking Mickelson, Woods, and other ancients on the PGA Tour.
“I don't know. I actually don't know why that is,” she said. “Maybe you can tell me why ... that is. I'm not sure. I've been a veteran since I was about 28. I don't know what you call me at 37.”
How about, Champ?
The key to Webb’s longevity, by the way? Keen focus on her fitness regimen.
“I think the fact that I spend 20 minutes every morning stretching, and then again in the evening now, I probably didn't do that when I was 25 -- stretching in the evening,” Webb said. “But now I need to do that as well. That's definitely helped. I do my fitness work. I've been doing Pilates the last couple of years. That's really helped the weaknesses in my body that I had, to make some of the swing changes that I needed to make.”
Webb will go for her eighth major championship and 39th tour win when she tees off in the final pairing with Ji at 2:40 p.m. ET at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y.