Golf: Relaxed Davies shares lead

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LAURA DAVIES was at her most uninhibited yesterday as she collected seven birdies in scoring a five-under-par 66 to share the lead after the first round of the dollars 900,000 ( pounds 600,000) McDonalds Championship here, writes Liz Kahn from Wilmington, Delaware.

Davies, the former US Open champion, had five birdies in her outward half, three of them consecutive, and by not dropping a shot she tied the five-under-par 31 low-scoring record for the first nine holes. She used her sand wedge to hole at the second from 35 feet and at the ninth found the target with a superb 50ft birdie putt.

A lapse of concentration on the back nine during a downpour cost her a three-putt, but she needed only 26 putts to complete the course. She said afterwards that more practice on her short game, and a more relaxed attitude on the course, was paying off.

Davies, who has not won for 20 months in America, said she was 'now trying hard to keep up with the other Europeans'.

She added: 'The Dupont Country Club golf course favours the long hitter and I can smash a driver and come in with a wedge at most of the holes.'

McDONALDS CHAMPIONSHIP (Wilmington, Delaware) First round (US unless stated): 66 L Davies (GB), G Graham (Can). 68 P Sheehan, L Merten. 69 J Inkster, S Steinhauer, L Walters, R Hood.