By Golf Victoria
Dame Laura Davies turned back the clock to her glory days as the veteran English star made a spectacular start to this year’s Oates Vic Open at 13th Beach Golf Links in Australia.
Davies showed why she’s one of the greats of the game after firing an opening round of eight-under par 65 around the Creek course, equaling the record around that layout set by Sarah-Jane Smith back in 2013.
The winner of more than 80 official tournaments leads by two shots from countrywomen Melissa Reid and Holly Clyburn, German Sandra Gal, Denmark’s Nicole Broch Larsen and West Australian Whitney Hillier.
That quintet also took advantage of the benign morning conditions on the Creek course to fire rounds of five-under 67.
Davies posted six birdies and an eagle in a bogey-free round and attributed a new putting technique – left hand low – which she learnt from watching Australians Rebecca Artis and Karrie Webb – for helping her get away to a great start.
“I’ve been working on my putting, that’s been the weakest part (of my game),” said Davies, who had 29 putts in her first round.
“I drove it well. It was just a really solid day. We were really lucky with the conditions, we hardly had any wind at all.”
Davies showed all her skills on the par-five seventh after her ball lodged under the lip of a fairway bunker off the tee. She had to chip sideways and then dropped her third shot into a greenside bunker.
“I’ve never seen a ball do that on a Melbourne-type bunker,” Davies said. “These are superb, the course is in great condition, but I’ve picked the one six inches that had a little bit of roots of the grass that grabbed my ball and it was stuck under the lip at the top.
“I actually did really well to get it out where I got it to then unfortunately hit a shocking nine-iron in the front bunker but managed to get up and down.
“That would have been cruel to have had a bogey on my card today.”
Davies described a five-iron approach on the par-four eighth from about 160m to 15 feet as her best shot of the day.
After a horrendous 2016, where Davies estimated she missed 14 cuts around the globe, playing well and putting her name back in contention this week is high on her list of priorities.
“I feel like I’m just learning how to compete again because you can’t just jump in with a chance to win and think you’re going to do it when you’ve had such a long time trying to make cuts,” Davies said.
“I’m not saying I’m going to win this but I would love dearly to shoot four rounds under par: that would be my goal.
“If I play like I did today, I’ll win – but who’s to say I’m going to play like that?”
Davies and Reid are among a group sharing a house together in Barwon Heads this week.
A bogey on the final hole was Reid’s only blemish of the day but, having never played on the Creek course before today, she’s happy to be around the top of the leaderboard in her Oates Vic Open debut.
Larsen was also pleased with her bogey-free opening round in her 13th Beach debut having left the depths of a Danish winter.
“I didn’t really make any birdies in the beginning but stayed patient. Then they started dropping and I turned four-under and birdied 10 and 11 and made pars from there.
“Six under is really good because I’m not striking the ball as I want to, but my putting has been good so hopefully I can keep that up.”
Hillier, who played in the same group as Gal, opened with a bogey but holed out for eagle from 102m on the par-five 10th which kick-started her round.
“It’s just one of those courses where you’ve got to stay patient and plot your way around,” Hillier said.
The 26-year-old from Perth is looking forward to moving onto the Beach course tomorrow afternoon.
“You’ve just got to plot your way around the Beach course,” Hillier said. “There’s so many opportunities (to make birdies). You just play punch shots under the wind if you need to and play safely and be conservative.”