Davies beats first-round nerves

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The Independent Online

Laura Davies may have won four majors and a total of 56 women's tournaments but nothing quite prepared her for the pressures of being the first woman to tee off in a European Tour event.

The former world No 1 said she hardly slept on the eve of her first tee shot at the ANZ Championship yesterday. In the end, she out-drove both Peter Senior and Jean van de Velde and, after shaking off the nerves which affected most of her round, shot a credible 75.

In the modified stableford points format used, her five bogeys and two birdies translated into one point. That was some 19 off the clubhouse lead held by Australia's Nick O'Hern, but she was confident that a good second round would be enough to make the cut.

"Minus one to the field looks terrible to the guys who are shooting 18 points, but in a way I am quite pleased with it," said Davies, who was playing her first competitive round in two months. "I have given myself a chance, if I have a really good day tomorrow, to make the cut. If I can get seven or eight points tomorrow I can make the cut. If I was minus 10 I would be out of it."

She finished tied for 124th place with Van de Velde, one point ahead of the New Zealander Mahal Pearce, who was a top-10 finisher at the Heineken Classic last week, and six better than Denmark's Jeppe Huldahl, who brought up the rear.

South Africa has joined the distaff trend by including a 14-year-old girl in a men's professional tournament.

Ashleigh Simon, South Africa's leading female amateur, has been invited to play in the Sunshine Tour's season-ending event. The Tour Championship, which is held near Malelane in Mpumalanga, starts next Thursday and is open to the tour's top 65 players.