Golf: Steinhauer blooms as Davies wilts

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The Independent Online
APART FROM hopping into her blood-red Ferrari and outdriving the competition, Laura Davies likes nothing better than a bet: greyhounds, horses, football matches, even golf championships.

Had she backed herself over the years Davies, the bookmakers' friend and the winner of 56 tournaments throughout the world, would almost certainly have added to her on-course prize money, which amounts to more than pounds 3million. However, whenever the Weetabix Women's British Open returns to the Marquess of Tavistock's estate at Woburn, Davies's heart sinks and the winner becomes a loser.

This is the 23rd edition of Europe's flagship event and Davies has won it only once, at Royal Birkdale 13 years ago. Woburn, though, is the championship's second home and Davies gives the impression she would have a better chance around the nearby safari park.

Yesterday, having made the halfway cut with nothing to spare, she was on dawn patrol, out so early she would barely have had time for a coffee, let alone cereal. On Friday evening Davies had said that a couple of 66s would put her on the leaderboard of the pounds 575,000 event.

Yesterday, paired with Valerie van Ryckeghem, she shot 75 to the Belgian girl's 70 and at three over par for the tournament she goes into today's final round 12 shots behind the leader, Sherri Steinhauer.

"I just can't play this golf course," Davies lamented. "I have tried everything this week. Nothing works. The trouble is you miss a fairway by a foot and you have no shot. I was a foot off the fairway on the sixth, behind a tree, dead. I have played fantastic. I won't be told I have not played well. But I have made absolutely sod all, and every time I have not hit the fairway I have been behind a tree. There is nothing wrong with my form."

Indeed. She has had three seconds and two wins in recent months and is No 1 in Europe with nearly pounds 150,000 - already a record. Davies's problems yesterday began on the third (a par four of 366 yards) where she hit a six-iron approach and never saw the ball again. "I can't blame the course," Davies added. "It's my problem, no one else's. You get criticised for hitting irons so I tried my woods and that didn't work either."

Davies wasn't just frustrated, she was almost distraught. As the most identifiable, and the most popular, player in the women's game in Britain, Davies is a standard bearer and is all too aware of it. Despite teeing off at 7.39am she attracted the biggest crowd. "The galleries have been brilliant," she said. "But I couldn't even birdie the bloody last. It hurts me deeply."

Before hopping into her Ferrari to drive to Anfield to watch her beloved Liverpool (another bad result), Davies popped into the betting tent here. The odds are she didn't have a flutter on herself to win the title today.

Steinhauer, on the other hand, hit the front with perfect timing following a 68 and seems to be suited to all courses. Twelve months ago the 36-year- old from Wisconsin took the pounds 100,000 first prize when the British Open was staged at Royal Lytham. Over the treeless but windswept links Steinhauer, who opened with an 81 in Lancashire, won with a four over par total of 292. Yesterday she stood at nine under on the tree-lined Duke's course and goes into the final round holding a one-shot lead over another American, Cindy McCurdy, and the Australian Fiona Pike.

"It was one of those days where I couldn't do much wrong," Steinhauer said. "On the front nine I didn't hit the ball very well but I got away with a lot. There are days when you feel like you are playing great golf but you miss something just a little bit and you get into a lot of trouble.

"Today I was getting all the right kicks and I made a lot of good par- saving putts. It has nothing to do with the golf course, it's just golf. You can never predict what's going to happen. There is luck involved in the game and today I had some."

Iben Tinning, who led going into the third round, faded with a 75. Tinning has been receiving help on the mental side of the game from a Danish canoeist. Yesterday she and Davies were up the creek without a paddle.