Golf: Swede roots out Davies

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IT WAS a day for the cool Swede and not the hot favourite. Laura Davies's expected charge through the Duke's course here was backed by her biggest-ever gallery in the Weetabix British Open, but it perished in the pines either side of the fairways and on the greens where she was comprehensively out-putted by Lottie Neumann.

Neumann began the day two ahead of Davies and ended it five ahead. 'Yet another British Open slips away,' Davies said, but perked up later with the view that a 64 today could still win it for her. There is certainly a 64 out there if today's weather compares with yesterday's slightly breezy brightness, and Laura's the woman to get it. But as much as she loves battling for her country it was soldier's golf that undid her . . . left, right, left, right. And even when she recovered from her waywardness she could not sink a putt.

It had looked promising early in the round. Neumann started shakily and had to make par-saving bunker shots on the second and third holes, the latter needing a 10ft-putt that set the scene for the Swede's accurate day. Davies took a birdie at the third and banged a two-iron to eight feet for an eagle on the sixth. That put her and Neumann level on nine under. A drive way left on the 10th began a chain of trouble that brought a bogey. On the 12th Davies drove right and had to take a drop from a bush amid the trees. She hit bunkers on the 14th and 15th but still got within eight feet and 10 feet and missed the pair of them.

Neumann had four birdies and three bogeys on the back nine but always looked more in command of her putter as the 18-footer at the 10th and a 15- footer at the 11th proved. She knows she needs an aggressive three or four under today to be sure, because Davies is not the only challenger.

Much haughty comment has been made about the fact that only 13 of the top 35 American women bothered to come across for the British Open, despite the fact that it now enjoys official status in the US calendar. But the Americans can get blasted by Laura and Lottie in their own country, why travel 3,000 miles for the pleasure?

Of those who did take up the challenge, Dottie Mochrie looked to have the best chance when she set off yesterday only one shot behind Neumann. But Mochrie struggled on the outward nine and was soon being upstaged by compatriots Cindy Figg-Currier, Tracy Hanson and Val Skinner.

The 22-year-old Hanson nearly upstaged the entire field, scorching around the first nine in 29 shots which equals the women's European Tour record set by Jane Geddes in the same event last year. She then birdied the 10th and 12th which meant that she had birdied eight out of 10 holes on her way to a 66. This was the best score of the day and was shared by Skinner.

Figg-Currier claimed the headlines on Thursday when she hit a 69 and then revealed she was pregnant. She was even more pregnant yesterday and brought back a 68 to finish three shots behind Neumann. Figg-Currier birdied all par fives - 'You have to,' she said. 'Laura turns them into par fours.' The American gave away her glove to a little boy at the 18th. 'You have to encourage the young fans,' she said. 'In fact, I was so happy I'd have taken all my clothes off and given them away.'

Despite the fact she did not, the attendance at Woburn yesterday was a British Open record of more than 9,000.