Golf: Davies finds it tough as she hits another 79

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The Independent Online
LAURA DAVIES shot one over par in the pro-am on Wednesday and was promptly installed as favourite for the Weetabix Women's British Open. She might even have been tempted to enter the William Hill tent on site here, one of her favourite haunts, to invest in herself.

In difficult conditions on a links course that is studded with any number of brutal holes, Laura shot 79 in the first round when the weather was at its worst and had another 79 yesterday when it was somewhat easier. That put her at 14 over par for the championship and she missed the halfway cut by one stroke after three-putting the 18th.

This is Laura on Wednesday: "This is probably the nicest course I have ever played in my life. The conditions don't worry me. I am looking forward to this. This is the biggest one as far as I'm concerned and it's so nice to be playing well coming into this tournament. This is the one. It's our version of the greatest tournament in the world, the men's Open, especially on a golf course like this."

This is Laura after the first round on Thursday: "It was just impossible, what more can you say? In the combination of the wind and the rain, it's just impossible. We were absolutely done with the weather."

Yesterday Laura, after coming home in 42 for a two-round aggregate of 158, had nothing to say whatsoever. She threw her visor into the crowd, jumped into her BMW and accelerated out of the clubhouse car park. She was obviously under the impression that she had missed the half-way cut although, as the casualties began to mount, she was by no means certain of having the weekend off.

After the first round only two players out of 138 broke par, the Americans Brandie Burton and Betsy King who somehow came in with 71s. Yesterday nobody was below par although Burton remained at the top of the leaderboard at one over at the half-way stage following a 74 that contained a solitary birdie.

King slumped to a 77 after beginning the second round bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey. "I didn't hit the ball as well as yesterday and I missed a few puts," King, who celebrated her 43rd birthday after her first round, said. "Although the weather was so much better the first few holes were not as short with a change in the wind direction and it was difficult to judge distance."

Not everybody found Lytham unplayable. Leslie Spalding, from Montana, shot 70 and, following a 76 in the first round, she was breathing down Burton's neck at two over par for the championship.

Spalding was a reserve for the tournament, only gaining a place two weeks ago when Alicia Dibos withdrew. "This is my first time here and I'm really thrilled, " said the 29-year- old, who turned professional in 1992. "I like the tough conditions and I like the wind. I feel my game is on the way up."

There were other outstanding scores from Wendy Ward with a 71 and Janice Moodie with a 72. Ward visited Britain for the first time last week and played at Turnberry with her fiance Nathan Hair, who is caddying for her at Lytham. "It's so refreshing to do something different for a week," said Ward. "Nathan and I just try to find the right range to land the ball. I practised bump and run shots at Turnberry and that has helped a lot."

Moodie would have been even better placed on the leaderboard but for taking a double-bogey six at the 18th where she three putted. "Spectators were walking across the fairway as I was about to putt and I missed from 10 feet. They put me off on my second putt and I had to wait as they walked straight passed me."

Se Ri Pak, of South Korea, the pre-tournament favourite was seven off the pace after a round of 74.