Dame Laura Davies set the pace with a magnificent opening round of seven under par 66 in the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open at Carya Golf Club in Belek, Antalya, on Sunday morning.
With eight birdies and one bogey, the four time major champion finished two strokes clear of the current Ladies European Tour order of merit leader Gwladys Nocera, with Noora Tamminen and Rebecca Artis a stroke further behind on four under par.
Davies has had a slow start to the 2015 season, with her best finish being 25th at the ISPS New Zealand Open, but she is now on a mission to qualify for the European Solheim Cup team and make a 13th appearance in the biennial contest in Germany this September, having missed out for the first time two years ago in Colorado.
Currently 16th on the European team points list, from which the top four will qualify, the 79-time tournament champion feels that she needs at least two more wins to earn her place as she doesn’t expect to receive a pick from the European captain Carin Koch.
“She’s not going to pick a 51-year-old is she, let’s face it,” said Davies. “I’m going to have to play my way in and the only way to play my way in is to get lots of points: 100 points plus. I’m trying, I’m always trying.”
There are 60 Solheim Cup points on offer for a win at the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open, which would put her into fifth place, just outside the cut-off for automatic qualification. Carya Golf Club, a favourable layout for the longer hitter, is the ideal place for Davies to begin her assault on the rankings as she likes the course and uses her powerful drives to her advantage on all but one hole.
“I’ve hit driver on every hole bar number five, the one into the corner, because there’s no point hitting driver,” said Davies, to be inducted into the prestigious World Golf Hall of Fame at July’s Open Championship. “It sets up really well for a long hitter: it’s as simple as that. I played well, hit 18 greens. I had a problem down the first when I moved a twig and my ball moved, but I then hit the shot onto the green, so I figured I hit 18 greens today, which is always a good feeling.” She also had a new putter in the bag thanks to her brother Tony and took only 30 putts.
Nocera was also pleased, especially as she is playing with an injured right ankle. The 14-time LET champion, who will turn 40 on Friday, explained: “I ripped a tendon four weeks ago falling off a golf cart, so I had a cast and I had crutches. It’s not healed yet but I’m working on it and the physio from the French Federation is here working on it, so that’s why I have a really nice strap that allows me to play. It’s painful and that’s why I didn’t play China, because I couldn’t walk.”
Nocera had three birdies and an eagle on the back nine before playing the front nine in level par. She added: “I’m really pleased with today. I’m not physically 100 per cent so I’m trying to play smart and not to do anything stupid, not to be too greedy.”