Golf: Davies targets `biggest event of all'

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The Independent Online
LAURA DAVIES, the former world No 1, has set the scene for the the Weetabix British Women's Open, which starts at Royal Lytham today, by describing it as "the biggest event of them all".

"Playing at Lytham is a real treat," Davies said yesterday. "With all the history and tradition surrounding the men's Open, you feel surrounded by history walking up the 18th fairway. To win on this course would be the greatest moment of my career."

With record prize-money of pounds 575,000 - the winner will become the first woman golfer in Europe to collect a pounds 100,000 winner's cheque - the line-up has the quality to match and includes all this season's major winners.

The South Korean Se Ri Pak, who has won the US Open and McDonald's LPGA Championship in her rookie year, heads a cast that also includes the two Americans who have won majors this season - Pat Hurst (Nabisco Dinah Shore) and Brandie Burton (du Maurier Classic).

It is 12 years since the women's Open was last played on a links course and it was Davies who claimed that title at Birkdale in 1986. It marked the start of her meteoric rise to fame that included victory in the US Open the following year.

Wild, windy weather and frequent heavy showers set a stiff test in yesterday's final practice round and the defending champion, Karrie Webb, playing a links course for the first time, came off after her effort claiming she was "absolutely exhausted."

But Davies was delighted. "This weather suits me down to the ground," she said. "The Americans will be bleating, but they'll be out there with their windcheaters and bobble hats and I'm sure they'll enjoy it."

Davies reckons that Pak, despite never having played in Britain before, will be a threat. "She has a solid game and can win anywhere," she said. Pak, 21 next month, admitted she is mentally exhausted after a season in which she has claimed two Tour titles as well as her double in the majors.

Annika Sorenstam, the world No 1 from Sweden, makes her first appearance in Europe this year aiming to win a first British Open to go with her 1995 and 1996 US Opens.

Catriona Matthew, of Scotland, the winner of the McDonald's WPGA Championship at Gleneagles last week, goes for back-to-back wins, while other leading British contenders include last year's US Open champion, Alison Nicholas, who has returned from a week off with illness, and Lisa Hackney, last season's US rookie of the year.