Golf: Davies makes historic mark

Americans poised to reclaim the Solheim Cup despite the efforts of Europe's leading player
Click to follow
The Independent Online
WITH HER two victories on Saturday, Laura Davies joined Dottie Pepper as the leading point scorer in the history of the Solheim Cup. While Pepper sat out the afternoon fourballs following wins in each of her first three matches, Davies is the only player not to have missed a session in five transatlantic encounters.

Prior to yesterday's singles, in which the United States needed only three and a half points to retain the Cup after establishing a five-point lead by Saturday evening, both Pepper and Davies had won 111/2 points.

Each has become an icon for their teams, Davies always leading from the front and sent out in the top singles by her captain Pia Nilsson. Pepper, simply put, adds spice to the Americans. The 33-year-old New Yorker is the very definition of intense.

In the Solheim Cup, Pepper has trodden a fine line. Four years ago, in a fourball match at The Greenbrier, she let out a yelp when one of her opponents missed a putt and refused to shake Davies' hand after the match.

This time Pepper has again been whipping up the gallery and did so to such an extent at the denouement of an important foursomes match on Saturday morning that Davies was moved to post a complaint with Judy Rankin, the American captain.

The match went to the 18th all square and the Americans won the hole with a par when Juli Inkster, Pepper's partner, lagged her 60-foot approach putt perfectly to within inches of the hole. Marie Laure de Lorenzi still had to play a difficult chip, for the win, and had to wait for the crowd to die down. After she hit her shot 15 feet past, Helen Alfredsson missed the putt to halve the match.

"I am not aware of Dottie being rude but if something happened before a shot was played, then I apologise," Rankin said. "When Dottie gets exuberant, she lets you know how she feels. I know she gets carried away but that's part of the reason everybody likes to see Dottie play. It would never be my intention or, to my knowledge, anyone else's that someone should be irritated but it is hard in these matches when the emotion runs so high."

"I don't get real close so I don't have to be responsible," Rankin joked when asked how she handled Pepper. "She is really not the ferocious thing she comes across as. I realise that emotion carries her away now and then."

Inkster, who had to get close, said: "Playing with Dottie, she is very emotional and you get dragged into that." In the afternoon, Inkster and Meg Mallon ensured the home side split the second fourballs series by beating Lotta Neumann and Charlotta Sorenstam 2 and 1 thanks to Inkster holing a dramatic 45-foot putt.

Davies' mood was not improved when she found that the tee markers on the par-five 11th hole, where the Englishwoman's power gives her the opportunity to get up in two, had been moved on Saturday afternoon. "She was very disappointed because she thought her chance of reaching the green in two had been taken away," Nilsson said.

Davies was livid and sought an explanation from a referee before playing on. "I am really pissed off," she said to her playing partner, Lisa Hackney, but the pair went on to beat Chris Johnson and Tammie Green at the last. Davies' ire was not dispersed until the next par-five, the 15th. A hole of 470 yards, Davies hit a three-iron off the tee and then a three-wood to the back of the green. A brilliant chip deserved to fall for the eagle but the Europeans won the hole with a birdie from Hackney.

A statement from the LPGA official who sets up the course, without reference to either captain, said: "I do not set up the course for any individual player or team. The tee markers on every hole have been moved for each session. The tee area for the 11th hole is the only one that has a split tee box which would have made the change seem more dramatic."