Golf: Davies proves to the Manor born

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The Independent Online
So Laura Davies got over the jet lag. Having scouted the course on her first round, Davies had her yardages worked out for yesterday's second round of the Marks & Spencer European Open. She promptly drove the green at the 310-yard dogleg-left first for an opening birdie.

Davies, just returned from a birdie-fest in America, had some way to catch up as the Australian Corinne Dibnah, after a 70, was already six shots ahead at eight under. Eight birdies later, including one at each of the last five holes, Davies led by three shots.

The next best is Stephanie Dallongeville at seven under, three ahead of a group that includes Trish Johnson, whose 66 was overtaken as the best of the day. It was the third time Davies has tied the European tour record low round of 63, and the world No 1 has only once returned one stroke lower in America.

The 5,954-yard Hanbury Manor course had no answer to Davies' 300-yard- plus drives. Apart from a seven-iron hit to within two feet at the short 11th, none of the birdies required more than a wedge or sand iron approach shot. Three times she misread 15-foot eagle putts, and though she chipped in at the 16th, another chip lipped out at the ninth. "I played all right today," she joked.

"I have never had a low round without coming off saying it could have been better. It is always difficult when you tee off a long way behind someone, but the best way to shoot a low number is the way I did it today, with a big finish.

"There is a lot of golf left to be played but I'm pleased with the way I'm hitting the ball. It's always good when I can hit the driver a lot and feel some consistency."

Kristel Mourgue d'Algue almost holed in one at the par-three fourth, only to find her caddie had selected the identical Callaway seven-iron from the bag of Maria Hjorth. All the players in the group were using the same make of club and the French rookie was penalised two shots under rule 4-4a. M&S's usual return-and-replace option was not available.

"I sacked the caddie immediately," said Mourgue d'Algue, who took a double bogey five. "It was the first time I had not selected the club myself and it has cost me dearly. This guy said he was a professional caddie but yesterday he was always about 50 yards behind and moving at the wrong time. I was too kind and kept him on for today. He asked if I was still going to pay him and I told him no, just go away."

Scores, Digest, page 27