Golf: Davies aiming to be first $1m woman

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The Independent Online
Laura Davies goes into the first LPGA Tour Championship at the Desert Inn course in Las Vegas today knowing that victory will make her the first player in LPGA history to win more than $1m in a season.

The British golfer has already broken the record for earnings in a single season by winning $897,302 (pounds 560,815) this year, comfortably beating the pounds 539,736 won by Beth Daniel in 1990. The first prize in the LPGA Tour Championship, which features the top 30 players in the money list, is $150,000.

However, Davies is not alone in her pursuit of a place in the record books. Karrie Webb can also top the seven-figure mark having won pounds 532,000. That figure more than triples the record for a rookie, pounds 163,821, set by Helen Alfredsson in 1992.

Although Annika Sorenstam is out of the running for that million-dollar feat, she can at least throw a spanner in the works of her two rivals by topping the US money list.

The event is now a fitting end to what has already been a history-making year for the LPGA, which did not even have a Tour Championship when the season started.

However, the LPGA's commissioner, Jim Ritts, was determined to include the event. "The addition of a Tour Championship to the LPGA Tour schedule has been a high priority in that we wanted to put a high-profile period to the end of the LPGA season," he said.

Four new tournaments have already been added for next year. With 17 existing events also raising their purses, total prize money next year will be almost pounds 19m, a 19 per cent increase on this season.

The LPGA is clearly enjoying the best period in its 46-year-history and has not enjoyed such a high profile since Nancy Lopez was at her prime in the late 1970s.

When Lopez won nine tournaments in 1978, including a record five in a row, she earned a total of pounds 118,320. However she has earned more than that this year without winning an event.

"I've seen the LPGA grow tremendously since I was a rookie," Lopez said as she prepared for the Tour Championship. "We're making a lot of money compared to where we've been."

The United States start as favourites for the men's World Cup in South Africa today even though the four-times winners, Fred Couples and Davis Love III, both miss the event. The Americans are represented by Tom Lehman, the Open champion, and Steve Jones, the US Open champion, in a tournament which has been weakened by the absence of many of the game's leading players.

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