England’s Laura Davies has collected five titles this season in New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Spain and India and she is determined to keep that tally mounting. Around 25 years separate her first victory at the 1985 Belgian Open from her 79th at the 2010 Hero Honda Women’s Indian Open in November, proving that not only is Laura better than most of her contemporaries, she has been beating them for longer than anybody else.
In addition to having the most wins on the LET with 45 and having the record for the biggest margin of victory on Tour, with a 16 stroke win in Ireland in 1995, Laura has also won the Henderson Money List, formerly known as the order of merit, seven times. She is also the LET’s oldest winner and keeps setting new records, She won in India aged 47 years, 1 month and 8 days.
The Ladies European Tour’s television producer sat down with Laura ahead of the 2010 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters to get her thoughts on a tremendous year.
Q: We’ve got one event left in Dubai coming up – How would you access this year looking back on it from the beginning from your win in New Zealand?
A: Obviously, it’s been a cracking year, 5 wins, couple of near misses as well. Not so good in America but on the European front, its been a fantastic year. Probably my most successful year I imagine, I don’t know if I’ve ever won more than 5 in Europe in a year.
Q: Would you say that this is probably your most successful year in Europe?
A: I’d say it has to be, yes. The wins are what it’s all about, no one really cares who finished second and if myself and Lee-Anne are both on five, I’d say that’s pretty unusual.
Q: Some of the older players are really mixing with the younger ones – Why do you think that is?
A: I don’t really know, I think the players you’ve mentioned have all got a real ‘wanna win’ and Trish has always been very competitive, Karen Lunn the same. I know Hacka, she’s one of the players who loves to do well and compete. It doesn’t really matter how old you are, if you’ve got that desire to go out and win, if you’re good enough you can always go out and do it, age is irrelevant really.
Q: What would you put it down to this season?
A: Just confidence, the confidence builds up – on the positive side. Equally, it can go the other way, if you start lacking in confidence it snowballs. I’m on the good run at the moment, the snowballs getting bigger rather than smaller which is nice. It’s pure confidence, that’s the only thing I can put it down to.
Q: You made a few changes to your clubs in the middle of the summer. You started with a Rescue Club and then you changed your putter as well. Why was that?
A: The change with the 2-iron was Johnny’s idea, my caddy. I had a Graphite Shaft, and he said “well all your other clubs are steel, change it to steel in America so it matches all your others.” Why we hadn’t done that before – I’ve no idea. All of a sudden the consistency and the accuracy got better with that. And in Atlantic City I played so well over there in a tournament and was putting so badly and Johnny said “well lets go to the pro shop to see if we can find a putter” and I’d played with one of the European girls in the Dutch Open, Rebecca Hudson, and she had this Scotty Cameron putter and just by pure chance the exact same putter was in the pro shop, so it was like 350 bucks, I hadn’t bought a club for years so I thought, I’ll buy it, I’ll give it a go, and I’ve still got it now and I’ve putted really well ever since.
Q: How important is Johnny to you as a caddy?
A: He reads all the greens for me; he’s a really good golfer himself. You’ve got to trust your caddy knows what he’s doing and he takes a lot of credit this year because he has done so well on the greens but just a friend stood next to you in the fairway and just giving you confidence really. It’s a caddy-player combination and if it’s right it can really work so well and give you that extra boost you need when you’re under pressure. If it’s just a run of the mill tournament, not so important but if you’re trying to make a cut or trying to win a tournament that’s when the caddy earns his money.
Q: How did you feel going into New Zealand, what with it being the first event of the year?
A: Well I played in a couple of the small Australian events, you could almost call them warm-ups but that’s a bit unfair to them because they’re on really good courses, one in Sydney, one in Cambra and I did ok, not great, so it was a little bit of a shock when I got to New Zealand and I did so well but having said that the course we played was just perfect for my game, as I could use the driver on nearly every hole, couple of holes on the back 9 when I had to be a bit more careful but it was a course that’s suited and I putted ok that week and it just worked out and I think I ended up winning by 2 or 3 shots in the end, it was a lot closer than that mid-way through and I managed to come out on top. There was a vital putt on hole 16, very good putt actually. Sarah Kemp had a putt inside mine, I think she had an 8fter and I had about a 20fter, I holed and she missed and I think that was a massive turning point for the tournament.
Q: Germany was your next win, where the conditions were awful and they were lucky to get the tournament finished. How did you find that event?
A: Again, it suited my game. That was the great thing about Germany as soon as I got there, I rang my brother up, he likes a little bet on the golf and I said look “We’re going to go close this week” because I knew it was a course I could play well on and there was a car for the winner as well so that was an incentive in itself and it just all worked out again. I did really well when I needed to, it got close on the back 9 where Mel Reid had the lead going into it and I had over taken her on about 15 or 16 and her and one of the other players couldn’t quite get away from us, I made a couple of Birdies at the right time and they made a couple of Bogeys and that was it really.
Q: How crucial is experience under-pressure?
A: Well you’d say not that important because you get so many youngsters winning tournaments now, but if you want to win a lot of tournaments over a long period of time, obviously you just keep gaining in confidence and gaining in the experience. Its hard to say, I’m not scared of failing, maybe sometimes some of the younger players are scared of failing and won’t go for the shots that they need to go for. Sometimes you can see a shot and think, “oh I could be in trouble here” and I’ll lay up on a Par 5 or something, maybe sometimes they don’t quite go for it enough and the winners normally go for pretty much everything.
Q: Would you say that you’re a risk taker?
A: Oh, absolutely and that’s why I’ve won so many times. I’ve lost a lot of tournaments, I’ve finished with a 10 in Japan one year when I was trying to win the tournament and I went from 2nd to 40th. You’ve got to take some chances now and again; it doesn’t always work out but never be scared of failing on it.
Q: Austria was your next win. You’ve won there twice before – what is it about that golf course that you like?
A: Again, it’s a perfect set up for me. I can use a driver on virtually every hole, there’s a couple you’ve got to be careful with. I always seem to putt well round there which is key because everyone is shooting quite low numbers and obviously never go low if you don’t hole puts. The very first time I went there I think I finished 3rd or 2nd and I just loved it so that’s why I keep going back.
Q: You then went on to win in Spain, which was quite a brutal golf course. How did you feel about that?
A: I was in the pub the night before the first round and a couple of people said do you fancy it and I said no I’ve booked my flight home for Saturday morning so I’m going to miss the cut this week. I’d seen a few holes from when we drove in and them we played the pro-am the next day and all of a sudden it seemed like a much more playable course. Not a course I’d ever say would suit my game but I just played really well, I drove the ball probably the best I’ve ever driven it, apart from on Sunday on 14 or 13 when I snap hooked it up that hill and made my quadruple but other than that I drove the ball superbly the whole week.
Q: Getting up that hill to take that shot was quite risky wasn’t it?
A: It was one of those things, I was a about a yard from out of bounds and normally you’d say that was lucky that I was still in bounds but my provisional ball was perfect and it was just unfortunate, cause I could get up there, could hit it, but there was an over hanging rock and I didn’t really judge it so the first one I missed it, then I panicked and went really quick for the next one, just about to do it again and Johnny said “Calm down, you need to think about this.” And so then I realised I just had to move a tiny bit and chopped it out and made the quadruple. But I’d have only made a double if that ball had been out of bounds, I hit a car path and went up the hill and it was just one of those stupid things that happens. I had a Triple Bogey on Sunday the week before in France and I thought ‘oh here we go again’, but I managed to make a couple of Birdies after that and then still won it.
Q: There were six players in six different groups all within one shot of the lead, so there were a lot people in contention going into the back 9, weren’t there?
A: In the interview afterwards I said it’s one of the best wins of my career and I believe that because any time you make a quadruple it’s a disaster mentally and when you’re in the last group with a four shot lead its catastrophic so to come back from that, there was Christina Kim who had already posted a number earlier in the day so you knew you were now playing against a score that was set, which wasn’t going to change. So yes, it was one of the most satisfying wins, I hit a 2-iron into the Par 5 15th I think it was, and that was one of the best shots probably I’ve ever hit and I know Johnny loved it, it was 230 odd yards and I hit it on the front edge and nearly 3 putted it but managed to 2 putt it so that was a good win.
Q: And then there was your win in India most recently….
A: It was one of those things, it was a weird week, the start of the week was miserable and the end of the week was obviously fantastic with the win. I lost my luggage, didn’t get anything until the Thursday morning, tee’d off at 12, didn’t get my suitcases or clubs until 9:30 on that Thursday morning, went out and shot 65, seemed like the easiest game in the world, next day 78, it was just a bizarre week and then won a 4 way play off on the Saturday, so just a really strange week.
Q: Why do you think that happens sometimes? Where a player can shoot a 65 one day and then a 78 the next….
A: I know, really it should have been the other way round – I was in such a state because customs in India wouldn’t release my bags to me that I just went out thinking well I’m going to miss the cut so lets just get this over with and get out of here, shot the incredible 7 under which I literally don’t know how I did it and then reality set in the next day, I made 4 Bogeys, a double, didn’t ever look like making a Birdie, it was the most bizarre turn around I’ve ever had. But having said that, everyone else had struggled and I was only 2 behind going into Saturday so I still had my chance after a really bad round.
Q: Your play-off record has not been the greatest, so what happened in India?
A: I don’t know why, I’ve just done really badly in them. I’ve never been in a 4-way play-off before so perhaps that’s the key. I luckily drew number 1 out of the hat and hit an absolutely massive drive and I think that made the others try and hit theirs too hard, one went in the bucker, one in the rough, the other one was just a bit too far back, two of them went in the water and the other one had to lay-up so I was in the box seat because it was a Par 5 and I hit an 8-iron second shot.
Q: That now sets up for Dubai and a chance to win your 8th Order of Merit, what would that mean to you to be able to do that?
A: Well, there are so many good young players now and at the age of 47 it would just be nice to think that I can still mix it up, not just on the odd week but for a whole season and I think I’ve played 9 tournaments less than Lee-Anne which would make it even more special for the fact that I’ve played in a lot less events than her and still come out on top. But having said that, if the book makers were laying odd she’d be 1 to 20 on to win it because I have to finish 1st or 2nd to have any chance and also she has to have a week where she’s not in the top 10 so every thing considered it’s a long shot but the long shots come in now and again.
Q: What do you think of the course and the atmosphere in Dubai?
A: I love it, it’s one of my favourite courses and I think I’ve finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the 3 times I’ve played it, been in contention virtually every year, well last year wasn’t because I-K went clear of the field and won easily but the other 2 years I had chances so I know how to play that course under pressure. It’s a strong field; Michelle Wies coming over obviously and I-K will be defending. It’s a big ask but its on a course I know I love, then there’s the setting of 18 with the water, and I think last year I went eagle, double, eagle, bogey, eagle, bogey, it was either feast or famine on that 18th, just a cracking finish to a great year really.
Q: You’re now an ambassador for ‘golf in DUBAI’, what does that mean to you as a professional golfer?
A: It’s obviously one of the places in the world where golf is becoming bigger and bigger and to be involved in that side of it is lovely. I’ve been speaking to them for a while and now that it’s finally happened it’s just a bonus at the end of a good year – maybe my good play this year has encouraged them to think at 47 I’m still worth taking a chance on. It’s just nice because they’re lovely people as well, they look after us so well and it really is a compliment to be put as one of their ambassadors.
Q: You mentioned before that you you’ve played well in Europe this year but haven’t played as well Stateside as you would have liked to, why do you think that is?
A: It’s putting, pure and simple putting, I just haven’t putted well. In Europe I don’t know what my average is but I imagine it’s around about the 30 mark, I’m probably averaging 34 putts in America – it doesn’t seem a lot when you say it like that but over 4 rounds it’s a huge amount and it’s the difference between having a good finish and finishing 30. I seem to finish between 50th and 33rd every week and I think it’s purely putting. Johnny agrees, he just doesn’t understand it.
Q: You’re two victories or one major away from being put into The Hall of Fame. What do you think you need to do to achieve that?
A: I’ve just got to play the right golf course because I’ve stopped playing courses I know I don’t know like because it’s pointless, it just messes with your head and takes all your confidence away. Find some nice courses, get on a good run – trouble is this year there’s not been a run of 5 or 6 events in America; we’ve been back and fourth, back and fourth because of the economy and everything. The LPGA has not had so many events, so I need a good run of tournaments over there but I haven’t actually won in America since 2001 so perhaps I’m kidding myself. I don’t know what the answer is, I feel like I can win, every week when I’m tee’d up I feel like I can win. But what the magic formula is I don’t know.
Q: Do you think that you’ll play more in Europe next year then?
A: Yes, I love playing in Europe. I’ve still got unfinished business in America. I want to get those two wins, well, I want to get ten more wins, let alone two more wins! I’ve got to try and do that and I’ll give it my best shot for the next 3 or 4 years and then at the age of 50 or 51 maybe I’ll call it a day in America and just play solely in Europe but I still see my future a little bit in America and a lot in Europe as well because I love playing in Europe. It’s always been a mixture for me, I’ve been doing it for 23 years, both tours, and that what I’ve always done so I’m going to stick to it and hope to pick up those wins.
Q: Where does your motivation come from?
A: I just love competing, I’ll be playing Countdown this afternoon with my mum and I’ll want to beat her. It’s just one of those things, I love to compete and it’s nice to finish the end of the week with a trophy in your hands knowing you’ve done better than everyone else and that’s purely what it’s all about. Mediocre weeks are horrible, I leave them and finish 30th or whatever and you leave with a sour taste really. You can’t win every time but just being in a position of trying to win a tournament – like Annika and Lorena, I don’t see how they can walk away from that, maybe they didn’t get the same feeling I did, just the excitement of trying to win.
Q: Do you think they became bored from winning so much?
A: Possibly, yes, because they’ve done so much. Compared to what I’ve done, they’re a different stratosphere really, they’ve done it on the LPGA, I don’t know how many Annikas won – like 68 or 69, I’ve won 20 on the LPGA, so yes, maybe boredom came into it if it was too easy for them. I don’t understand their mentality; it works for them that they don’t want to play competitive golf anymore. For me, you’re a long time dead, that’s the way I look at it. I want to keep doing this for as long as I can be competitive, as soon as I can’t be competitive you won’t see me for dust.
Q: Out of the youngsters on The Ladies European Tour who has impressed you the most over the last 12 months?
A: I don’t know if you consider Becky Brewerton still a youngster, I don’t know how old she is, she’s probably 26 or 27 now but she’s the biggest under-achiever, she’s the best ball striker of the young Europeans that I’ve seen for 10, 15 years. Why she doesn’t win quite so much – I don’t know, as I haven’t played that much with her under pressure but she’s for me the best of the younger players. Obviously, Lee-Anne, she’s done so well this year, you’d have to put her at the top of the tree because of what she’s achieved this year but there’s so many of them that are really good. You go out there and Johnny and I will play with someone for the first time and say, “Oh gosh, she can hit it.”. Where as a while back you’d think, “Oh gosh, another skanker, she’s just going to putt me to death.” But now they’re out there and they’re hitting the ball properly and it’s fun to watch them and stand on the side of the fairway and you want to watch them hit it. So I think overall, rather than there being a few real standouts, other than the two I mentioned, the overall standard has improved so much of ball striking.
Q: You almost had your 6th victory in France, what happened there?
A: It was incredible, I cruised up along side Trish and Trish was playing well she just wasn’t putting well on Sunday – she played really well all week obviously. I was 5 under after 10 holes and she was level after 10 holes so we were like 2 ahead of anybody else and I just thought this is looking pretty good, Trish can’t putt, I’m holing really good putts and then just went over the back of a hidden 8-iron, over the back of that 11th and got the worst lie imaginable, duffed the first chip, rushed the second chip, three putted, all of a sudden you’re 3 behind and then I made a nonsense of the next, duffed another chip and I was gone, it was then a battle to try and have a good finish. I think I ended up finishing 5th, 3 putted 18 instead of being 3rd, so there’s one you walk away and shake your head, having said that Trish played the last 6 holes superb golf, she was the worthy winner that week, I’d had my chance and made the mistake.
Q: Do you sometimes think you’re a little bit guilty of rushing things?
A: If I’m under pressure I get quicker and quicker and quicker, simple as that. And I knew where I was, the lie was so bad, it was one of the worst lies I’ve ever had in my life, let alone in contention when you’re trying to win a tournament and I was annoyed that I got such a bad break, where as I should have just taken the fact that I’d duffed the first one, knocked the next one on, probably made a Bogey and walked on, but rushed it up that hill in Spain, got away with it in Spain, didn’t get away with it in France and that’s the way it goes.
Q: Is the Solheim Cup still very much in your forefront?
A: Yes, I hated the last Solheim Cup, I didn’t enjoy it at all, it was one of the worst weeks I’ve ever had on tour I think and I must admit, I was sort of over it, but because I’ve done well this year it looks like I’ll be in the team, barring a disastrous year next year and hopefully I’ll enjoy this one more than I did the last one but I sat out for three of the four of the first two days and then played on Sunday and nearly won my match but blew it by playing really awful on the last 2 holes and then we lost, at one stage it looked liked we were going to win and if we’d had won it then I could have looked back and said that’s the greatest Solheim Cup I’ve ever been in winning on American Soil but we lost it. Sitting on the side lines in a Solheim Cup is the worst possible thing and I’d been really lucky up till then, the first ten Solheim Cups I’d only missed one series of matches and all of a sudden I missed three on the trot. It was hard to take to be honest with you and I didn’t enjoy that. But Ireland, having seen that course which is a course that suits my game down to the ground, hopefully it’s going to suit all the other European players and we’ll have a chance to win it.