Webb Is Lone Par-Breaker in Florida Wind

From Associated Press

Karrie Webb, last year's LPGA rookie of the year, started 1997 as if 1996 had never ended.

Webb overcame windy conditions Thursday to shoot a 3-under-par 69 and take a three-shot lead in the first round of the Chrysler-Plymouth Tournament of Champions at Weston Hills Country Club.

While Webb shot 34 on the front and 35 on the back, no other golfer managed to break par. Four players shot 80 or higher.

Barb Whitehead, Pat Bradley, Caroline Pierce, Barb Mucha, Dawn Coe-Jones, Annika Sorenstam and Beth Daniel shared second with even-par 72s. Eight others were 1-over.

"It felt good to be back out playing. I missed it," said Webb, who has not played in almost a month. "I hit the ball really well today and I didn't miss a fairway. I was reading the greens well."

Unlike most of the field, which comprises tournament winners from 1995 and '96 and active LPGA Hall of Famers, Webb didn't seem distracted by wind gusting to 25 mph at the course at the edge of the Everglades.

"I'd rather have it calm, but I tend to play well in the wind. It makes me concentrate all 18 holes," said Webb, who last year became the first woman golfer to earn $1 million in a season.

As the temperature soared into the low 80s under sunny skies, Webb started hot, reaching 2-under on the front nine. Bradley, Coe-Jones, Whitehead and Alison Nicholas were one stroke back before the wind and the course got to them.

Eight players carded scores in the 40s through nine holes.

"Even par is under par on a day like today," said Bradley, a member of the LPGA Hall of Fame.

For some, playing in the first event of the season also didn't help.

"I haven't played much golf recently. I was rusty," said Sorenstam, the two-time defending U.S. Open champion who got married last week.

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