Even Karrie Webb is amazed by her sizzling start this season.
The 24-year-old Australian cruised to her third championship in six tournaments Sunday, beating Lorie Kane by four shots with a 14-under-par 274 in the Standard Register Ping.
"I worked hard and everything is falling into place, but you just never really think that you're going to win three out of six starts," said Webb, who shot 3-under 69 in the final round. "I mean, you try to win every week, but this is pretty amazing."
Webb started her 1996 rookie season with six top 10 finishes in six events, and has matched it this year. Her poorest finish so far was eighth last week in Tucson, Ariz., and she already has more victories than she had last season.
The quickest LPGA player to win $1 million and $2 million, Webb earned $127,500 this time and increased her tour-leading total to $419,063.
Much of the credit goes to her decision to change to a cross-handed putting grip after meeting in late November with putting guru Scotty Cameron at the Titleist facility in Carlsbad, Calif.
Since making the change, Webb has played 19 of 23 rounds below par, leads the LPGA in scoring average, eagles and birdies and has played the last 12 rounds in 62-under-par.
"That's a pretty big change," Webb said. "And when you make a change that significant, you never know whether it's going to fall into place in the first tournament or five tournaments later, 10 tournaments later. So I just knew that it was a change for the best, and I had to be patient with it."
Kane, who also joined the tour in 1996, carded a 71 and lost ground on Webb, whose victory margin would have been greater but for a double bogey on the back nine.
"She is playing with no fear," Kane said. "Not that I have fear. But she doesn't see where she can hit it; she sees only where she's going to hit it. She's going to win a whole lot more this year."
Webb extended a streak of foreign golfers winning in Phoenix, where Patty Sheehan was the last American to win in 1993.
England's Laura Davies won the next four years, and Liselotte Neumann of Sweden took the title in 1998, the last year that the course was a par-73. Three greens were redone since last year, and par on the 6,435-yard layout was reset at 72.
Neumann never got to defend her title after missing the cut, and Davies finished in a quintet 11 shots off the pace at 285.
Jane Geddes and Janice Moodie were at 280, both after 65s that tied Dawn Coe-Jones' opening-day record for the revised course, and Wendy Ward was fifth after beginning and ending the round at 7-under.
| Kane watches her birdie putt stop short of the hole. (AP)|
The 12th victory of Webb's brief career seemed like a foregone conclusion when she birdied the first hole after starting the round with a two-stroke lead on Kane and no one else within four shots.
On the way to the sixth second-place finish of her career, Kane got back within two with a birdie on No. 3, but Webb birdied the fourth hole and went four strokes ahead with a birdie on the eighth.
Kane never got closer than three shots again, and then only because Webb hit her approach shot on No. 14, a 345-yard par-4, into a greenside bunker, blasted out and three-putted from 25 feet for a double bogey.
Webb got back on track on the next hole and parred out for the easy win.
"I thought that left the door open a little bit, but I couldn't capitalize," Kane said.
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