Karrie Webb defends Founders crown as LPGA Tour returns Stateside

Karrie Webb defends Founders crown as LPGA Tour returns Stateside

Australia`s Karrie Webb will defend her Founders Cup crown this week as the LPGA Tour returns to the United States after tournaments in the Bahamas, Australia, Thailand and Singapore.

Last year, Webb surged up the leaderboard with a final-round nine-under par 63 and she beat out five others at 18-under to win by one shot with a 19-under total of 169.

It was her second come-from-behind victory in the tournament. She also rallied to win the inaugural edition in 2011.

"It`s just one of those courses where you can get on a roll," Webb said of the Wildfire Golf Club layout. "Barring a couple of rounds we`ve played here in the last four years, the conditions are perfect. The temperature is nice and warm, and not a lot of wind. It`s sort of set up for that sort of scoring."

Last year`s win was Webb`s 41st on the LPGA Tour and she hasn`t won since.

The group that finished a shot behind her last year included New Zealand`s Lydia Ko and American Stacy Lewis.

Ko returns this year as the world number one, having astounded the golf world in February by reaching the summit of the rankings at the age of just 17.

Victories in the Australian Open in February and the New Zealand Open raised expectations even further.

But Ko settled for a runner-up finish to former world number one Park In-Bee of South Korea in the HSBC Women`s Champions in Singapore earlier this month.

World number three Lewis will also be back in action.

Ko and Lewis are among five top-10 players in the world playing this week along with number seven Michelle Wie, eighth-ranked Kim Hyo-Joo and ninth-ranked Webb.

Wie is coming off a career year in 2014. She won two LPGA titles, including her first major at the US Women`s Open.

But she has been slowed this year by illness, including a sinus infection and strep throat.

"This past month has been really tough," Wie said. "I got back from Asia, feeling really sick in Asia, and then I saw the doctors again and had to get back on antibiotics because I had a sinus infection, and still, the doctor said that I probably won`t be feeling 100 percent for the next couple of weeks.

"I`m feeling a lot better thankfully, but it`s been tough. I mean, just being sick in general, it`s never fun, so really right now my number one priority is just getting my health back in order."

The $1.5 million tournament kicks off a three-tournament stretch that culminates with the season`s first major, the ANA Inspiration -- formerly the Kraft Nabisco championship -- in Rancho Mirage, California. 

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