Webb grabs lead at rain plagued U.S. Women’s Open


SOUTHERN PINES, North Carolina, AFP

Karrie Webb filled the cups with birdies almost as fast as the rain filled them with water at the U.S. Women’s Open on Friday. Defending champion Webb was one of the few players to finish her round as the weather interrupted the second women’s major of the season. Just 45 of 150 golfers had completed their second rounds when play was halted after a rain delay of three hours. Those with early tee times were able to get in, and no one did it in finer fashion than Webb, the 2000 Player of the Year who is looking for her first win on a U.S. course this year. She may just get it here after blistering the Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club course for a five under-par 65. Webb was five strokes better than anyone else who had completed 36 holes. Play was suspended briefly by rain in the morning, and again for lightning in the early afternoon. Officials squeezed in 44 minutes of afternoon play before calling a halt amid a storm that produced 1 1/2 inches of rain in two hours. If weather permits, the round will be resumed Saturday morning. The forecast calls for morning fog giving way to partly cloudy skies with a chance of afternoon showers. First-round co-leaders A.J. Eathorne and Cindy Figg-Currier were three-under-par, right where they left off Thursday. Canada’s Eathorne got in four holes but Figg Currier did not even tee off. They are now two shots back of Webb, who had everything working Friday. Beginning on the back nine, Webb rolled in conventional birdies on the 11th and 18th holes, both par-fours. But she showed her versatility on the front nine. At the par-four second, Webb’s approach shot came up short of the green. She used a wedge and punched a shot that rolled into the cup from about 55 feet. Two holes later, her approach stopped inches from the cup for a tap-in birdie. Mi Hyun Kim of South Korea played par golf through four holes and remained at two-under. Compatriot Se Ri Pak, who won this event in 1998, got in two holes and stayed at one-under. Another big name who finished her round was Juli Inkster, who managed a two-over 72 for 140. Inkster won this event in 1999, when she earned Player of the Year honors. Tour superstar Annika Sorenstam got in just two holes and lost a stroke to go one-over.Sorenstam won consecutive U.S. Women’s Opens in 1995-96. Although six shots off the pace, Sorenstam is by no means out of it. She erased a final-round 10-stroke deficit earlier this year to claim one of her tour-leading five victories and also won the first major of the year, the Nabisco Championship in March.