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Golf - 05. February 2008.

Webb aiming for back-to-back Australian victories

By Bethan Cutler
The 33-year-old World No.3 is aiming to win the event for the seventh time at Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. She previously captured the title four times in a row from 1998-2001 and then again in 2005 and 2007.

photo LET

Last year, the seven-time major champion won her national Open at Royal Sydney and then defeated South Korean Ji-Yai Shin by two strokes at the Masters a week later, beating her own course record with a 62 in the third round.

Last week at Kingston Heath Golf Club in Melbourne, Webb defeated the 19-year-old Shin again, at the second hole of a sudden death play-off.

Shin, the World No.7, is hoping to go one better against Webb with a win this week, but the biggest challenge she may face could be the weather.

Players were unable to practise on the waterlogged course at Royal Pines Resort on Monday and Tuesday, due to eight inches of rainfall over the weekend, followed by further downpours.

Owing to foreboding weather forecasts, tournament organisers have brought the first round tee times forward to 6.30am in an attempt to complete as much of the 72-hole event as possible between Thursday and Sunday.

Tournament chairman Bob Tuohy, said: “The aim is to get at least 18 holes in the can before Friday evening. If we’re lucky we might have 36 holes. Then we’ll re-group and go day by day going forward as we can with the object to complete as many holes as we can.”

There is no-one in the field with more experience of the course than Webb, who was not worried by the lack of practise.
Webb said: “I know my game is pretty good. I’ll look forward to hopefully playing (in the Pro Am) tomorrow. If we don’t see the course till we tee up I’ll know that I’ve played well here so many years that I don’t think there will be much adjusting to get used to it.”

She said that one of the keys to playing well would lie in not over-reading the flat greens. “I know they’ve had quite the wet season on the Gold Coast so I would say that the greens will be a little slower and grainier than they usually are. That will probably be the biggest challenge.”

Japanese star Ai Miyazato is playing in the tournament for the first time since 2005, when she finished one stroke behind Webb in second.

The World No.17 said through an interpreter that she had been struggling with her driver for the past year; however she will still enter the tournament as one of the favourites.

Amy Yang from South Korea, who won the event as a 16-year-old amateur in 2006, is also in the field, along with British star Laura Davies and last week’s third placed player Melissa Reid from England.

The 20-year-old Reid is visiting Australia for the first time and has had two top five finishes in two starts in the last fortnight at the New South Wales Open and the MFS Australian Open.

Having never played the course before may decrease Reid’s chances this week but she said: “I have a caddie who has been here eight times and he knows the course here pretty well.”

Reid, who took the early lead on the New Star Money List, has set her sights high for the year ahead. She said: “I obviously want to win tournaments. I’d love to win a tournament or two; three or four or five; as many as I can win really.”

On her No.1 ranking, she said: “It’s the first tournament of the year isn’t it? If I was number one at the end of the year then I’d be pretty happy. I just need to keep finishing inside the top three!”

The ANZ Ladies Masters takes place from 7-10 February with prize money of $600,000AUD

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