Golf: Matthew plans home improvement

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The Independent Online
LEADING for the first time with a round to play, Catriona Matthew needs to bring two sequences to an abrupt halt to convert her advantageous position into victory at the McDonald's WPGA Championship. Firstly, no Scottish professional has won on home soil in a men's or women's tour event since Cathy Panton-Lewis was victorious in the Scottish Open 10 years ago.

More bizarrely, the winners of the first two stagings of this event, Tina Fischer in 1996 and Helen Alfredsson a year ago, have both stayed in the same hotel room. Not surprisingly, Alfredsson rebooked room two at the Tormaukin Hotel in Glendevon this week and has already done so again for next year.

The Swede began the day tied for the lead with Matthew but had to wait until the 14th hole before her first birdie of the day. Another at the last gave Alfredsson a 70 to reach six under, but Laura Davies, the former world No1, became Matthew's nearest challenger. Though the Scot equalled the day's best score with a 67 to be nine under, Davies, after a 68, is happy to be lurking two behind.

"That's the ideal scenario for me," said Davies, who has won the sponsor's sister tournament in America three times. "Unless you have a big lead, you go to bed thinking you have it all to lose. One behind would be perfect but two is fine."

Matthew, a former Curtis Cup player, has followed a distinguished amateur career, with just one victory as a professional to date. That came in 1996 at the Australian Open when conditions at the Yarra Yarra course in Melbourne were much the same as the average day at North Berwick, which is where the 28-year-old learned her golf. But there is more to Matthew's game than just battling bad weather, as she showed on a day when summer, or at least a hint of it, finally arrived in the Perthshire Glens.

Out in 36, one under, Matthew produced her best shot of the day, a five- iron to four feet, at the short 11th to spark a run of three birdies. The next two came courtesy of a couple of 25-footers. "I was due," Matthew said. "I started to hole some putts today."

Beating two established Solheim Cup players would boost Matthew's chances of making her debut in the competition next month, but she is not overly worried about having two such star names right on her heels. "You know Laura and Helen are capable of producing a 64 or a 65, but if I can do what I did today then that forces them to shoot a low score."

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