She hadn’t played a tournament round in six months because of her mother’s illness.
Heading out, she didn’t have a clue what to do, even after 35 years on tour. She didn’t know what was going to happen. And she didn’t know what she was doing once she got out there.
Welcome to the frequently wacky world of Dame Laura Davies, who, by the way, opened the 2020 Vic Open with a six-under par 67 over the Creek course at 13th Beach.
“It was a bit weird, but a good result,” said the 56-year old Englishwoman at the end of a round that contained as many as eight birdies.
Go figure eh?
“That’s the best I've putted in 20 years,” continued Davies, who has 87 worldwide victories to her name. “I don't know how many putts I had, but it wasn’t many. It was really nice to have someone (retired pro Rebecca Artis) on the bag. She's a really good green reader. She does that ‘AimPoint’ thing, which bamboozles me. I haven't got a clue what she's up to. But she got the lines right. If I keep striking the ball like that and she keeps reading the putts like that, we might have a chance of making the cut. When I got here I wasn't too sure about doing that.”
Still, no one should be too surprised that Davies is so surprised at such success after the longest absence of her long and distinguished career.
The 12-time Solheim Cup player has always done things her own sweet way. Long hours on the range, for example, have never been her idea of a good time.
“I just play,” she says. “If I’m playing well, I’m not practising. At 56 I have to take my time with things. Plus, it’s a myth that I don’t practice. I do enough. But I’ve never been one for overdoing it. That’s why I’m still playing at a high level at my age. A lot of the great players of my era have gone. They don’t play anymore because they overdid things. I see others doing the same. Of course, a lot of the younger players don’t want to be out on tour for a long time. They want to get in and get out, which is why they put the work in now.”
As for what lies ahead over the (hopefully) next three rounds, Davies was understandably playing down her chances of what would be her first win – other than the double of US Senior Open and PGA in 2018 – since 2010.
“Making the cut would be a huge bonus after six months not playing tournament golf,” she acknowledged. “Thoughts of winning haven't entered my head. Sometimes when you don't think about things, they happen. But no, I'm a long way from winning. At the moment I'm just trying to find my feet again, which is weird after 35 years.”
Expectations may be low, but Davies can be relied upon to provide much entertainment along the way, no matter how her scoring goes over the coming days. Few enjoy tour life more. And this week she will be having plenty of fun at what is one of her favourite weeks of the year.
“This might even be my favourite tournament,” she says. “We play on two great courses and we get to play alongside the guys, which is always nice for us. The galleries come out and watch, so you can't really beat it.”
Ah yes, competing with the men. Only twice over the course of her career has Davies played in a pro-am with a man she felt was a better player than herself.
“I laugh when I’m introduced to good male players on the first tee,” she says. “I can tell that they think they are better than me. But most good male golfers are really surprised when they play with us. They think they are going to be better. But they’re not. They might be scratch players, but put them in tournament condition and we beat them almost every time.”
Fair enough. But how does she – the first woman to compete in a European Tour event, when she teed-up in the 2004 ANZ Championship in Sydney – feel her peers compare with their male pro counterparts?
“The skill levels are the same,” contends the four-time major champion and former world number-one. “The men have shots we don’t have because they are more powerful. But I have to think even top-level male pros would like to have the consistency of the girls. I bet someone like Brooks Koepka would like to be as good as Inbee Park when it comes to greens in regulation. So there are bits of the game were we are actually superior. But when it comes to strength and manoeuvring the ball there is no comparison.
“We are the best women golfers in the world; they are the best players in the world. That’s how I look at it.”