Pierce set for spot of plundering

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The Independent Online
Golfreports from Woburn

Caroline Pierce thinks of three-foot putts as terror, but a more pleasant sort of fear than the one she felt one February night last year.

The former English Girls' International champion was at her home in Houston when she was the victim of a kick-burglary (the American term for a robbery when the intruders dispense with the intricacies of a bent safety pin).

"Three black guys kicked in my door and put a gun to my head for 20 minutes," she remembered yesterday. "They took pretty much what they wanted, jewellery and a couple of thousand dollars, but they didn't hurt me."

With her mind full of sensations other than nerves, the Cheshire-born Pierce played some of the best golf of her season the following week in Florida, before delayed shock set in. "At Phoenix a month later I was a basket case," she said.

The holes here must have looked about basket size yesterday as Pierce sank putts of 15, 12 and 10 feet on her way to a second consecutive 70 and a place at the summit of the leader board.

Pierce, 32, now lives in Phoenix after eight years on the American tour. She is a former student of Houston Baptist University, where she came into contact with a big bloke who roomed with her boyfriend, a chap called Colin Montgomerie. Pierce revealed that her beau and Big Monty got on "sort of", which is the sort of relationship the Scot develops with quite a few people.

Lotte Neumann's observation that she finds it difficult to glue together rounds of significance proved depressingly accurate as the overnight leader carded a 74 to accompany her opening 67.

After the amusement of the first day, when a squirrel scampered past her ball as she was about to putt, the Swede had two moments when it appeared something had run up her trouser leg, missing the green with a wedge on the seventh and snap-hooking on the 15th. "Every time I hit a bad shot I couldn't get a break and when I hit a good shot I couldn't make the putts," Neumann reported. "It was a frustrating day."

A record crowd of over 10,000 saw Australia's Karrie Webb, in her first year on the tour, climb to the head of the leader board, but further down the field there was reason for the organisers to worry about the attendance figures for the last two days.

As on Thursday, Laura Davies, who is the biggest draw in the women's game, struggled to modify her huge-hitting game to the parched grasslands of Bedfordshire. Davies bogeyed the 13th to go to three over and threaten her further participation in the tournament at the half-way cut.

There was no such worry for Suzanne Strudwick, the Knutsford-born player who has not sparkled in the United States this year but who fired a 68 on her return to the brown, brown grass of home. Following an overhaul with Viv Saunders last week, the 30-year-old is in the frame of mind to follow in the footsteps of her compatriots. "After seeing the other Europeans win I keep thinking it is about time I won," she said. "Their success makes you believe you can do it."