|Two-time champion Laura Davies|
(Golfclub Föhrenwald, Wiener Neustadt, Austria – Thursday 10th September 2009) — Laura Davies kept her hopes of a third straight Austrian victory alive with a five-under 67 to share the opening day lead at the UNIQA Ladies Golf Open presented by Raiffeisen.
The 45-year-old Englishwoman, hoping to win for the third successive year at Golfclub Föhrenwald in Wiener Neustadt, tied with compatriot Melissa Reid, Ireland’s Rebecca Coakley and Spain’s Marta Prieto.
Davies, who won the Standard Register PING in Phoenix over four consecutive years from 1994, recorded a flawless round with five birdies, but was left slightly disappointed after missing a birdie chance at the par-five 18th: a hole with a fairway on which she earlier joked that a jumbo jet could be landed.
After striping a monster drive down the fairway, she hit a perfect six-iron flush past the flag but didn’t get up and down.
“It was a great start. I made a really good birdie on 17 and was almost taking another birdie for granted. The ball was in the air and I thought it was lovely. It was just the wrong club. It’s just a bit disappointing,” she said.
Davies is hoping to put last month’s Solheim Cup frustration behind her with a strong finish on her return to Europe this week.
She last won at the Women’s Australian Open in February but said: “The standard of golf is so high now you can’t take one shot for granted let along a whole tournament so there’s a long way to go.”
Reid, who turns 22 next week, also scored a bogey-free round after taking five weeks out to recover from a wrist injury. She spent a week in Dubai on holiday with her sister before getting back into training.
“I’ve still been training I’ve just not been hitting balls. I’ve been seeing my friends a lot which is always nice and taking it easy. I’ve been practising now for about two weeks. My wrist seems to be holding up.”
It is Reid’s first time playing golf in Austria, but she has visited the country on snowboarding trips.
“I love snowboarding in Austria, but the golf is pretty good. The course is in awesome condition. The greens are probably the best I’ve played all year so compliments to the greens staff.”
Like Reid, Prieto, who turns 31 on Friday, is also targeting her first pro victory. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of this year’s two Spanish winners, Tania Elosegui and Beatriz Recari. She said she was happy with her six birdies and one bogey, “because I’m not confident about my swing. I managed to hit it straight. They were not great hits but they were straight and it worked.”
Coakley, also yet to win on tour, carded three birdies and holed a seven-iron shot from 135 metres for eagle at the par-four 13th. She said that the only thing she had changed was her putter.
“I played steady until the 18th and finally holed a putt for birdie on 18.I’m playing the same as I have all year I just haven’t holed enough putts and today I made three birdies and got a bit lucky holing the 7-iron. I can’t say that anything is very different.”
All four leaders had finished their rounds in pleasant conditions before was play was suspended for 29 minutes at 6.22pm due to thunderstorms and lashing rainfall. Only three groups remained on the course when play was suspended but they completed their rounds after the storms cleared.
Just one shot off the pace were Ireland’s Hazel Kavanagh, Spain’s Laura Cabanillas, Frenchwoman Jade Schaeffer and Germany’s Bettina Hauert. Second round play begins at 8.00am on Friday, with a cut to the leading 60 professional players and ties at halfway.