2005: LPGA - The Davies way

Havre de Grace, Md.

We should all hope Laura Davies earns the final two points needed to qualify for the LPGA and World Golf halls of fame. Davies no doubt will produce the best acceptance speech in the history of the halls, and we’re talking one heck of an after-party.

The 20-time LPGA winner was in contention for a large portion of last week’s McDonald’s LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock. A victory would have given Davies a ticket to history, but her go-for-broke style led her to a third-place tie with rookie Paula Creamer – well behind champion Annika Sorenstam.

“A good week, but it’s not what I was looking for,” Davies said.

Davies, 41, represents the bandit in all of us. She’s the LPGA’s version of John Daly – similar talent, a similar affinity for casinos, but far less exposure. (She was pleased that she “only lost $1,000” gambling in Atlantic City casinos while at the ShopRite Classic.)

Davies came to Maryland with something to prove. It had been four years since the Englishwoman last tasted victory on the LPGA – the 2001 Wegmans Rochester – and she knows the importance of seizing every opportunity. Davies felt like she was hitting the ball well, and she was able to score because of a hot putter.

“If you looked at the stats, you would say time is running out,” Davies said. “But I know how well I’m playing. If I went the last 10 years of my career without a win, I would be a very sad puppy.”

An opening 67 put Davies in a first-place tie, and a second-round 70 put her two shots behind Sorenstam. Davies, playing with Sorenstam in Round 3, made a dreaded double bogey (one of three on the week) on the ninth hole and fell eight shots behind. However, the streaky one made four birdies in the next six holes to climb within three of Sorenstam, who had made five pars and a bogey in the same stretch. With momentum on Davies’ side, she tried to drive the green at the 330-yard, par-4 16th hole. Her tee ball hugged the right side of the fairway, hit a tree and dropped into thick, gnarly brush. She did well to advance the ball and make bogey, but a Sorenstam birdie on the same hole pushed the lead back to five. Another Davies double bogey on No. 18 knocked her out of contention.

“I would have tried to drive 16 regardless if I was first or last,” said Davies in a tone reminiscent of Phil Mickelson circa 2002. “We were trying to win, and when you’re trying to win, sometimes you mess up. If you turn out to make a nice check, you can lay back. But if you’re turning up to win, you’ve got to make something happen because Annika will always do that.”

Said Sorenstam: “The good thing is, I know what Laura is all about. It’s all or nothing. I’ve always admired her. She’s a great person, her attitude to golf is a little different than other players, but I like it.”

The LPGA never has taken full advantage of Davies’ plentiful attributes. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is one of the most exciting people – man or woman – to play the game. Each day at the McDonald’s, Davies couldn’t wait to get to the 596-yard, par-5 11th hole to see if she could reach the green in two by hitting driver, driver. In the first round, she came within

25 yards of her goal and she made three birdies and a bogey there for the week.

“It shouldn’t have been that long for us,” Davies said regarding the longest hole in LPGA history. How long should it have been? “Around 508 so I can get there in two and nobody else can.”

Davies’ driving average at Bulle Rock was 289.1 yards, tops in the field. The course played long, fairways were wide, and hitting driver off the tee was more of an option than normal. Her driving average for the season is only 264.4 yards because she often hits irons off the tee at tour events that have tighter fairways and play to shorter yardages. You’d think the LPGA would want it’s longest bomber to hit driver as often as possible. Davies is an instant crowd favorite when she’s able to let it fly.

If you could choose only one player on the LPGA to sit down and have a beer with, Davies should be your unanimous selection. Her personality is infectious, her jokes are witty and she’s brutally honest. You’ll never hear a fellow player say a negative word about her.

“I admire her very much and I respect her,” said Lorena Ochoa, who was paired with Davies for the final round at the McDonald’s. “She’s not afraid of anything, she’ll go out there and do whatever she wants to do. If she makes a mistake, she doesn’t regret it, she keeps going. She has her own way of doing things, but it’s amazing how much she enjoys being out here.”

Davies and Sorenstam were standing on the fourth tee during Saturday’s third round waiting for the fairway to clear. (“I would like to take a gun and shoot the slow ones,” Davies would later say. “It’s pathetic, it drives me crazy. Annika is the best player in the world and she’s not slow.”) Davies then looked at Sorenstam and whispered something that had the No. 1 player in the world in stitches.

“Maybe you should be our next commissioner,” Sorenstam responded. “I like your rules.”

Rules? To Davies, that’s an alien concept.

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