Golf: Davies delivers another deluge of birdies

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The Independent Online
LAURA DAVIES continued her onslaught on the European women's tour when she extended a golden summer with a superb 66, six under par, to take the first- round lead in the BMW Italian Open at the Frassanelle club here yesterday.

The 16th consecutive tournament round in which Davies has bettered par gave her a one-stroke lead over Jane Hill, of Zimbabwe. South Africa's Laurette Maritz and Karine Espinasse from France are one stroke further behind.

Davies has already won the Italian title twice and in this mood another victory beckons. 'When you are on a roll like this you have to take full advantage before it ends,' was how the Briton summed up her day's work.

There were moments when Davies showed that she was human after all. Three putts on the second and 18th greens accounted for her two bogeys. Eight birdies more than made amends for the lapses.

Davies and her playing companions, Stefania Croce and the holder, Corinne Dibnah, all made twos at the picturesque short 15th. Dibnah shaved the hole and narrowly missed the BMW car which is on offer this week for a hole in one.

Hill, who lost a play-off for the British Open at Woburn two years ago, also had a two there. But this paled against the eagle two she conjured at the third where she holed an 111-yard eight-iron approach.

Maritz was assisted by her sister Natasha, a masseuse, who pulled her golf trolley. Not only did she contribute to a fine round of 68, but she also administered a relaxing massage to both Hill and Espinasse. A stewards' inquiry did not materialise.

Maritz, alone of the leaders, never exceeded par. The former South Africa Open winner was out in 35, then made her move with three birdies in five holes when she turned for home.

Espinasse made an even better late charge. The French golfer was one over par after six holes before a birdie at the seventh helped her turn in 36. She made a four at the long 10th, then added three more birdies in four holes from the 13th for a best-of-the-day homeward half of 32.

BMW WOMEN'S ITALIAN OPEN (Padua): Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 66 L Davies. 67 J Hill (Zim). 68 K Espinasse (Fr), L Maritz (SA). 69 C Dibnah (Aus), D Dowling, V Michaud (Fr). 70 J Arnold (NZ), C Hjalmarsson (Swe), H Dobson, L Fairclough, L-A Mills (US). 71 J Germs (SA), M Lunn (Aus), S Croce (It), S Gronberg (Swe), S Elliott, L Hackney, X Wunsch (Sp), S Nicklin. Selected British: 72 K Douglas, D Reid, E Smith, A Shapcott. 73 B New, H Wadsworth, S Duhig. 74 J Forbes, J Soulsby, S Strudwick. 75 W Dicks, D Barnard, C Duffy, S Shapcott, J Brown, S Robinson, A Nicholas, G Stewart. 76 S Prosser. 77 S Moorcraft, E Farquharson, C Panton- Lewis. 78 R Hast, P Wright. 81 J Kinloch.

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