Date: February 13, 2019
Author: John Huggan

HUGGAN: Davies a bona fide legend

Legend. It’s a much overused word in a world where seemingly everyone and everything is, like, awesome. But there are times when it is appropriate. And this is one of those. Dame Laura Davies is a bona fide legend of the game that has been her working life.

That indisputable fact is true anywhere and everywhere, but especially so in Australia. In the 34 years that Davies has played golf for money, she has won six times on these shores, including the 2009 Women’s Australian Open at Metropolitan in Melbourne. That is just one of the 87 victories she has accumulated worldwide, a record that inexplicably still has her two points short of enshrinement in the LPGA Hall of Fame.

“Australia has always been great for me,” says Davies. “I love coming down here. I love the people. I love the courses. I’ve had success. And it has always been fun. Which is why I keep coming back. I’m especially fond of the Sandbelt courses in Melbourne. And The Grange this week reminds me of them a bit. I love the bunkers, the sharpness of the edges. It’s just a look I really enjoy. There’s no downside to coming here, as far as I’m concerned.”

Davies arrived here in Adelaide for what will be her 586th appearance in an LPGA event off the back of a missed-cut in last week’s Vic Open. And it has been 18 years since she last tasted victory on the world’s biggest female circuit. Do not imagine, however, that this seemingly ageless 55-year old has given up on adding a 21st LPGA title to her already amazing resume. Only last year she was a runner-up in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, her highest-finish in nine years. Yes, she recognises the depth of expertise at the sharp end of the ladies game. But that, she reckons, is more down to advances in technology than anything else.

“The best players now are no better than those that were around when I was playing my best,” maintains Davies. “If you gave Patty Sheehan, Betsy King, me, Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam today’s equipment in our heyday, we would all be competitive. But the equipment makes such a difference. If you have great clubs, a great ball and really good swing the game is easier. 

“I used to come down the stretch with players and see where they might drop a shot here or there. Not any more. They just hit every fairway and every green. And most of them putt brilliantly too. But it’s a different kind of brilliance to what we saw 20 years ago.”

So what else has changed?

“The hybrid clubs have made such a difference to our game,” continues Davies. “The men’s too, but not quite to the same extent. I don’t like them though, I like my 2-iron and my 3-iron. I like playing proper golf. I played in a shoot-out at the Moroccan Open this year – the men and women play at the same time on courses close to each other – and when I pulled out my 2-iron to hit the second shot after my partner (former Ryder Cup captain) Paul McGinley’s drive, he couldn’t believe it. But it is the best club in my bag.”

Sadly, as she admits only too readily, the same cannot be said of the shorter clubs sticking out of Davies’ bag. Her short game and putting are not quite what they were, at least relative to her competition. 

“I’m hitting the ball great,” she claims. “My long game is still really good. I miss fairways, but then again, I always did. I hit a lot of greens, but maybe not quite as many as the very-top players. It all boils down to my work on and around the greens not being as sharp as it was. My chipping and putting is not quite as good as the best players. I’m just not quite at their level. 

“I walked off last week five and six shots worse than the two girls I played with. That was all down to my short game. So for me to win now I almost have to have a perfect week. It nearly happened last year. But if one part of my game is off, I’m not going to win. I can only make cuts. In fact, that’s my aim this year – not to miss so many cuts. If I do that, I know my confidence will grow. And that’s what I need more of if I’m to have that perfect week.”

Let’s hope she can make it happen. Just one more time. It would be quite a story. Legendary really.