World number one Karrie Webb strolled to her first victory of the season today by carding a three under par 69 to win the ANZ Ladies Masters at the Royal Pines Resort for the fourth consecutive year.
Webb returned another flawless card that included three birdies and finished eight shots clear on 17 under par from compatriot Rachel Teske, who finished runner-up to Webb for the second year running after posting a 69 of her own.
Catriona Matthew, a winner two weeks ago on the LPGA in Hawaii, posted a four under 68 to finish alone in third. The Scot also moved to the top of the Evian Order of Merit and Solheim Cup rankings after what was the opening event on this season's Evian Tour. After starting the day with a five shot lead, Webb was never troubled by any of her rivals and extended her winning margin with birdies at the third, 11th and 16th.
The 26-year-old Queenslander, who dropped only two shots all week, is now a remarkable 87 under par for her last 20 rounds over the Royal Pines Resort. She joins England's Laura Davies as the only female golfer to have won the same event in four successive years, Davies having completed the feat at the Standard Register PING from 1993 to 1997.
"The conditions were pretty tough again today and I certainly had to play every hole even though I had a comfortable lead at the start," said Webb after collecting the £30,400 winner's cheque.
"No bogeys and three birdies felt pretty good and got the job done. Someone was going to have to shoot real low to catch me today.
"It was great to be in Oz again and win in front of the big crowds and home support. Being a Queenslander I always get a lot more pull from the crowds.
"I only had two bogeys all tournament and I can't complain with 17 under, although I probably hit the ball better than I putted this week. But it's a good kick-start to the year - hopefully it's an omen and a sign of things to come.
"I remember Laura (Davies) going for her fifth win at the PING in 1998, but I'm not sure whether any one has won five in a row. If they have, it was certainly one of the legends of the game."
Webb also paid tribute to her new caddie Mike Paterson, who began his stint on her bag at the start of the season, and joked about playing against in yesterday's traditional cricket match against the Rest of the World Team.
"The last few weeks with Mike have gone really well," added Webb. "We're working really well together and I'm looking forward to the future.
"Mind you, I'm not too sure how happy he was happy with the four I hit off him after he pinged one down at me yesterday." Teske, who finished runner-up last season under her maiden name Hetherington, managed to claw one back on Webb after a one under par front half, but ultimately never threatened the world number one.
"That's probably my best finish here, but the perfectionist in me says that it wasn't really enough," said Teske, a three-time winner on the LPGA Tour.
"I thought I could shoot a low one today, but I had a lot of ground to make up and it was too much to catch Karrie. Karrie's always guaranteed to play well whether she's in front or behind."
Matthew moved from tied ninth overnight into third spot thanks mainly to a magnificent start that saw her pick up birdies on the first four holes. The in-form Scot, who last month broke her LPGA duck at the Hawaiian Ladies Open, was unable to maintain her momentum on the back half as she came home in level par.
A one under par 71 from American Kelly Robbins was enough to secure her fourth spot on seven under par, two ahead of Australia's Corinne Dibnah and Kathryn Marshall of Scotland, who posted 71 and 75 respectively. It also proved to be another frustrating day for halfway leader Lynette Brooky of New Zealand, who slipped back into a tie for 10th place on three under par after shooting a 78.