Davies seeks Merit rise

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The Independent Online
LAURA DAVIES, of Britain, has been cruising along comfortably in overdrive through Europe this year and a third victory of the season beckons in the BMW Italian Open which begins at Frassanelle here today.

Davies, who won the Italian title in 1987 and again the following year, has bettered par in 21 of the 27 rounds she has played on the European Tour this year. Her hopes of recapturing the Order of Merit title are enhanced by the absence of Trish Johnson this week.

Johnson, who has winnings of pounds 48,255 from eight tournaments, leads Davies by pounds 300. Last month in Canada she was diagnosed to be suffering from viral meningitis. Johnson is resting this week to ensure that she will be fit to play in the Weetabix British Open next week and in the Solheim Cup against the United States at Dalmahoy which takes place the following week.

This leaves the way clear for Davies to overtake the West Country golfer and a pounds 16,500 winner's cheque would open a substantial lead and take her overall earnings for the season over the pounds 100,000 barrier.

Half of this amount has come from the LPGA Tour in the United States where, in June, she lost a play-off against Anne-Marie Palli of France. Davies was again beaten in extra time by Nancy Lopez in Illinois two weeks ago.

Six members of the European Solheim Cup side are playing in Italy including Pam Wright, of Scotland, who has been playing in the US all season. Last year, in only three European events, Wright finished 20th, third and fourth and will be a serious contender this week.

Attention will also focus on Elaine Farquharson, another Scot who makes her debut as a professional. Farquharson, the Scottish amateur champion last year, was a member of the successful Great Britain and Ireland team who regained the Curtis Cup at Hoylake in June.