U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S OPEN
Rousing Victory May Boost Davies on Return to Tour
July 15, 2018 | WHEATON, ILL.
By Ron Sirak
Bob Jones, the greatest amateur ever to play the game, liked to say: “There is golf and then there is tournament golf.” Becoming a champion is a delicate mix of talent, intelligence and belief in yourself. The discipline needed to be a winner is not learned anywhere but in the heat of competition. It could very well be that Laura Davies won more than the U.S. Senior Women’s Open on Sunday at Chicago Golf Club. It could be that she found a missing piece to her game – a belief in herself.
Davies, who last won an LPGA event in 2001, didn’t hesitate when asked what has kept her out of the winner’s circle.
“I think confidence,” she said. “You feel nervous all the time. You know the shots you can hit or used to be able to hit, and you can’t quite do them, so your confidence takes a bit of a knock. Yeah, it’s just in your mind really. It’s not really a physical thing; it’s more in the head.”
You wouldn’t think confidence would be an issue for someone who includes the 1987 U.S. Women’s Open among her 20 LPGA titles and 85 wins worldwide. But she hasn’t won anywhere since India in 2010, even though earlier this year she was T-2 in the LPGA Founders Cup with rounds of 63-69 on the weekend, edged out only by Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park.
“Well, yeah, I haven’t won for eight years,” Davies said about the state of her nerves during Sunday’s final round. “The pressure you’re playing under when you’re trying to just do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win, so this ranks highly up there. And obviously because it’s a USGA event, it’s hard to compare tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements, I can assure you.”
One thing is clear from her overwhelming performance at Chicago Golf Club, where only four players broke par: Davies still has a lot of game. She is simply one of the most talented players in the history of the women's game. Always one of the longest hitters in women’s golf, she still compresses the ball in a special way and hits it high, often able to fly fairway bunkers, enabling her to play the par-5 holes 14 under par. She also showed a deft touch on and around the extremely demanding greens. Her 16-under-par 276 was 10 strokes better than runner-up Juli Inkster and 12 clear of Trish Johnson.
“Well, I mean, winning is winning,” she said when asked what this does for her confidence. “You see people like Steve Stricker and Freddie Couples, when they play the Masters and the PGA Tour events, they go from the Seniors and winning regularly, and their confidence transfers over, and that’s why I think they do quite well on the regular tour. You build up a bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course. Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind, if you’ve done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can’t do anything but fill you full of confidence.”
Davies is flying to London on Sunday night, and after a week off, will next tee it up at the Ladies Scottish Open at Gullane and then play the Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. It will be interesting to see what her confidence level is as she goes back out on the LPGA Tour. If she wins again on tour, she’d shatter the record for oldest tour winner, which is Beth Daniel at 46.
Although she’s already been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Davies still needs two points to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame, and that’s exactly how many points they award for winning a major championship. A victory at Lytham and she’s in. That’s pretty good motivation, and Lytham is another pretty good course for a long hitter to negotiate with a 2-iron.
Davies leaves Chicago Golf Club with a trophy that identifies her as the first winner of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. That’s historic. But she may also leave with the confidence she needs to make history on the LPGA. Certainly, she proved this week that she was the best player here. That knowledge may travel very well as she heads to the other side of the Atlantic.
Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA digital channels.