(Sydney, Australia March 1 2003) The English duo of Laura Davies and Suzanne Strudwick will head into Sunday’s final round of the $Aus500,000 AAMI Australian Open tied for the lead on 10 under par, four shots clear of their nearest challengers after a contrasting day at Terrey Hills GC for the two stalwarts of British women’s golf.
Strudwick, in her 20th season as a professional, returned a course record 64 in the calmer morning conditions, beating by one Davies’ record from the opening round. While Davies, with a mere 17 years and 65 titles under her belt, showed her true fighting qualities for a one over par 73 on a day where 40mph winds buffeted the course from all angles.
The pair head six players in third place on six under par including defending champion Karrie Webb, who paid the ultimate penalty for hitting two bad shots during her 74. Webb was heading for another showdown with Davies on Sunday as she reached nine under after 16 holes. But the former World number one pulled her tee shot into the woods at the 17th and walked off with a triple bogey seven to slip back.
Sharing sixth place with Webb are compatriot Rachel Teske (70), American Jackie Gallagher-Smith (70), Becky Morgan from Wales (68) and the Anglo-Scots duo of Joanne Morley (72) and Mhairi McKay (71).
Strudwick reached the turn in just 30 shots, making seven birdies on arguably the tougher of the two halves. More birdies followed at the tenth and 13th before the wind began to howl. Pars followed and the 37-year-old, originally from Knutsford but now residing in Knoxville, Tennessee, knew she was in contention for her first Tour win since the 1991 Open de Paris.
When asked what she did differently today, Strudwick quipped: “I just hit fewer shots!
“Seriously, I just kept hitting it close and making the putts. The first nine was a dream and I only did one thing wrong when I three putted the sixth hole. It wasn’t from being careless; I was just going for it.
“I’m not surprised to be where I am now because the wind really picked up on the 11th and I was pleased with my two under on the back nine, it’s just so exposed out there.
“I haven’t been in this position for a long time. I’ve won before, but it’s been a while so it’s not brand new to me. Tomorrow it’s just shot for shot, but I can’t go out there and play level par and expect to win, but I am going to do my very best.”
Davies battled the conditions as best she could and struggled through the middle of her round.
“I was four over after 11 holes and I hadn’t hit a bad shot,” said Davies who is aiming for back-to-back wins after last week’s success at the ANZ Ladies Masters.
“It was very tricky out there. Even a slightly bad shot was magnified.”
But after a simple tap in birdie from a tee shot that so nearly earned her an $Aus160,000 jackpot for a hole-in-one at the par three 12th, Davies rescued the day, knocking in three more birdies on her inward nine.
However, at the 18th, a slightly pulled six iron ended up 35-yards left of the green by the main scoreboard and the resulting bogey saw the former world number one tie with Strudwick.
“She’ll be looking for a good tournament,” added Davies of Strudwick. “She’s a good player and I’d like conditions to be calm again. I’d love to go low and win this tournament instead of making pars all day long.
“If there’s a chance to win, that’s all I can hope for going into Sunday. Whatever happens after that is in the lap of the gods.”
Webb, just four behind was hoping for similar conditions if she is to mount a challenge and win her third Australian Open title.
“Considering conditions were so tough, I really hit it well,” said Webb.
“If it’s windy again tomorrow, I might have a chance to catch up, but if it’s normal conditions, I’ll really have to work my butt off out there.”