Davies returns to reality

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The Independent Online
Before its latest reincarnation as a luxury hotel, Hanbury Manor was home to the nuns of the Faithful Companions of Jesus. Those faithful followers of Laura Davies who came to witness more miracles in the third round of the Marks and Spencer European Open were disappointed.

Not only had Davies run out of miracles, but she found she had run out of her stock of birdies. After having nine in her brilliant 63 on Friday to equal the European women's tour record, the world No1 was dealing in only pars and bogeys yesterday as she slumped to a 76, a figure she would have liked to have been able to exchange at the customer services desk.

At halfway, Davies led by three, seemingly on her way to regaining pole position in the European Order of Merit to go with her leadership of the American money list. She needs to finish first or second here to top the list. Now, with a round to play, her Solheim Cup colleague Trish Johnson holds a four-shot lead over Italy's Federica Dassu. Davies is joint third with Sweden's Sophie Gustafson and the Australian Anne-Marie Knight, five behind.

Johnson, an Arsenal fanatic deep in Tottenham country, was perhaps spurred on by the sight of her rival's white jerseys in the gallery as she followed her second round 66 with a 64. Having been runner-up in three of her five tournaments in Europe this year, the 30-year-old from Bristol is determined to go one better today. Out in 34, Johnson birdied the 10th and then ended with five in a row, as Davies had done the day before.

"I can only assume Laura is tired," Johnson, who has not won for three years, said. "A 63 is hard to follow, but you would think she could shoot par around here with her eyes shut. But you are never enough in front of Laura. I am very happy with the way I am striking the ball and I have holed the putts when I've hit it close over the last two days. I lost my way thinking my way round the course after I won in America, but my long game has improved a lot."

Not one of the par fives fell to Davies. The radar on her long game was malfunctioning poorly, but not as badly as her putting. Tee shots into the rough or bunkers cost three bogeys in a row from the fifth, and a three-putt from the back of the 11th green cost another shot. Her second putt, from three feet, finished on the back lip of the hole and refused to drop even under the combined effects of gravity and Davies' stare.

"I played exactly the same as the day before," Davies said. "I'm not tired, I have enjoyed it this week. I have played really well this week, but have not holed enough putts, even in my 63."