U.S. Senior Women's Open gets the final pairing it deserves for Round 4

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U.S. Senior Women's Open gets the final pairing it deserves for Round 4

LPGA Tour

U.S. Senior Women's Open gets the final pairing it deserves for Round 4

WHEATON, Ill. – It’s the dream final pairing. Laura Davies and Juli Inkster in the last group on Sunday at the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open. A week that has exceeded expectations in nearly every way, deserved this type of leaderboard. Two of the giants in the game of golf battling side by side, with throngs of fans walking down the middle of Chicago Golf Club’s heralded fairways behind them.

“Everything has changed,” said Davies. “The fun is gone now; it’s all turned a bit serious.”

Davies’ 7-under 66 gives her a five-stroke lead over Inkster, who carded the championship’s first bogey-free round on Saturday. The crowd erupted when Davies dropped a 70-foot eagle bomb on the par-5 12th after striping one of the great 3-irons of her life.

“It had about four feet of break one way, and then about three feet of break back the other way,” said Davies. “I hit it about a foot outside right, and it went in, and it was good fun.”

After carding nine straight pars on the front side, Inkster caught fire at the turn, rolling in three birdies and a closing eagle on the reachable par-5 18th.

“I’m going to have to do the little things good,” said Inkster of Sunday’s plan. “Like on No. 2 today, I was just short and I chipped it over the green. I mean, who does that? And I made par. And (No.) 4, I miss a shorty. So I’m going to have to play a really clean round and very good round to even have a chance.”

England’s Trish Johnson, winner of the Senior LPGA Championship, rounds out the 9:09 threesome. She trails Davies, her English compatriot, by seven strokes. Tee times have once again been pushed up due to inclement weather with groups going off split tees.

Davies considers Chicago Golf Club, one of the USGA’s founding clubs, to be among the most difficult she has ever played. She was pleased to see the firm and fast layout get a bit of rain Saturday morning. Thunderstorms are forecasted for Saturday evening, which would suit her fine. It’s important to hit the correct quadrant of the greens here, and softer conditions make it easier to get to the right spots.

In March, Davies carded an incredible 9-under 63 at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix that put her three back of Inbee Park in the final round. Davies closed with a 69 in the desert while Park cruised to victory, but the strong final-round performance gave Davies a tremendous mental boost that she could still hang in there during extreme pressure.

Davies admitted she’ll get next to no sleep tonight. At age 54, she’s in position to win her 85th professional title worldwide. Asked what age has taken from her on the golf course, Davies said confidence. Shots that used to be standard aren’t anymore. Equipment upgrades have kept her yardages similar, but it’s the shots around the greens that can be more difficult. In short, she said, it’s mostly in the mind.

“I’m not saying I’d rather be tied for the lead,” said Davies, “but you sleep a lot better when you’re tied for the lead. It’s there for me to lose now. If I go and shoot 3-under, 4-under tomorrow, then it would be mine, but that’s a lot of hard work in front of me.

“I’ve put myself under pressure.”

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