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Back to the treadmill
A year ago Karrie Webb was basking in the glory of a glorious season. Annika Sorenstam, meanwhile, was tucked away in California working on her putting, her fitness and putting together a game plan to topple Webb.

The Swede succeeded, but the Australian insists that, despite losing the world number 1 ranking, she has absolutely no feelings of disappointment at the end of another long season.

Certainly, no-one can disagree that she had another great year. She has every reason to be proud of a season that included victories in two majors, a record fourth successive Australian Masters and an end-of-year triumph in the Tour Players' Championship.

It was the majors that really made her happy. She comfortably retained the US Open in North Carolina in June, and just three weeks later became the youngest player to complete a career Grand Slam with her win in the McDonald's LPGA Championship.

But does the lady protest too much when she totally dismisses those that suggest she must be a tad upset at handing over her crown to Sweden's Sorenstam?

And perhaps the genuine answer to her innermost feelings will not be revealed until next year. Over the next two and a bit months of closed season, Webb will, no doubt, sit down, assess her goals for 2002, and then work out a plan to try and fulfill them.

That's just what Sorenstam did last winter. The Swede worked extra hard on her game, and on her fitness, and the new, 2001 model proved to be almost unbeatable. It helped her win eight titles and all the end of season honours on the LPGA Tour.

Webb admits she has tremendous admiration for both Sorenstam's desire and achievement. 'A lot of people say they are going to work hard, but not many actually do it,' observed Webb. 'Annika did, and had a fantastic year. She really deserved it.'

So does Webb have a magical plan? She certainly gave more than a hint that she is not ready to sit back and let Sorenstam steal the limelight for the next few years with her victory in the Tour Players' Championship in Florida. Hounded by her great rival all the way down the stretch, the Aussie held on to win by a couple of shots.

A resident of Florida, she will head home to Queensland for Christmas and to celebrate her 27th birthday on December 21. But it will not be all relaxation. She will work with her lifelong coach, Kelvin Haller, and she will also be pounding out the hours in the gym.

'I'll have a few weeks solid work out,' she confirmed. 'Then I'll come back to Florida in January to put in a few weeks' final preparation before heading back home for the Australian Masters and the Australian Open in mid-February.

'But I don't think I can really work much harder than I have in the past. But we do have a longer break this season, which I think will do me good. Last January, I know that when I came out on the circuit that I wasn't really ready to play golf.'

Of course, it is the mental approach as much as technique that separates the girls from the women at the top of the tree. Sorenstam is the first to admit that she is a total perfectionist, fiercely competitive, and that it was her blinkered determination to become number 1 again that saw her through last winter's tough regime.

But Webb has nothing to prove in the head department. Since turning professional as a 20-year-old, and winning the British Open as a rookie in 1995, she has enjoyed nothing but success. Already, she is classed as one of the most successful golfers of all time.

But she still has plenty to achieve; more records to break, more goals to be achieved.

Of course, it might just not be Sorenstam v Webb in 2002. Se Ri Pak separated the pair by sneaking into second spot on the money list thanks to five wins, including the new major of the Weetabix British Open at Sunningdale.

The South Korean, who won two majors in a sensational 1998 rookie year, bounced back from a win-less 2000 to really challenge for the top honours. Perhaps 2002 will be the season when she topples the pair that have shared the star billing since the mid-1990s.

In the meantime, one just wonders what the three of will be doing over the weeks leading up to the start of the new season in mid-February. Could they be bashing balls on the practice range, grinding it out in the gym or perfecting the putting stroke on the hall carpet?

Nothing will be revealed for another few months - but it should be interesting to see the 2002 Sorenstam, Webb and Pak machines in action.

©    7 - DECEMBER 2001

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