Laura Davies has seen it all
Laura Davies needs to win only one point at this week's Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle, Ireland, to break Annika Sorenstam's career record. Currently, the Englishwoman has 23½ points to the Swede's 24, while American Juli Inkster has 18.
Though Davies, 47, does not mind saying she is proud to have played her way on to all 12 of the European Solheim Cup teams, the above statistics do not impress her much.
"I may have won 21 matches and halved five, but I've also had 17 defeats," she said. "Some of them still hurt."
The most glaring of the losses occurred in 2005, when she went down to then-teenager Paula Creamer by a thumping 7 and 5.
"I like Paula a lot," said Davies, "but I can't say that I enjoyed what she did to me that day. She had one of those afternoons when she holed everything from everywhere. As I remember it, she was out in 30 to my 36."
Most of the Europeans were having a hard time of it in those singles. The same, though, did not apply in 2009 near Chicago, where things were looking pretty good as Davies reached the 17th tee with a two-hole lead against Brittany Lang. Though Davies always has been associated with hitting the ball a country mile, her tee shot on this penultimate hole was a disaster, barely leaving the ground on its 70-yard dash to the left.
"I really blew it," she said. "Everything went to pieces from there. I ended up with the most miserable of half-points when, if I'd won, it would have sent back all the right messages to the girls behind." The U.S. went on to a 16-12 victory.
By way of pointing her in the direction of happier times, I recalled the first Solheim Cup, in 1990 at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla. A handful of European supporters were lined up in front of the clubhouse to catch the shuttle back to the main hotel. Betsy King and Beth Daniel were at the front of the queue and had assured those standing behind that they could not miss it if they stayed where they were.
As it transpired, the shuttle to which King and Daniel were referring was the Atlantis, which was heading on a 2 million-mile journey into space rather than to the local Hilton.
In that inaugural year, Europe thought the best it could hope for was a couple of points but ended up doing somewhat better, with the U.S. winning 11½-4 ½. Davies' second point of the week came from her singles match against Rosie Jones, who is captaining the U.S. side this week.
Every now and then, Davies falls out with her driver and, with that the situation toward the end of the 1990 season, she asked for her 3-wood on the first tee against Jones. When she saw what was happening, Jones could not resist asking mischievously, "Is there a screw missing in your driver or something?"
Davies, one of the greatest golfing characters on either side of the Atlantic, replied in kind.
"I won't," she said, "be needing a driver to beat you."
The prediction was a good one as she went on to win 3 and 2.
"It was a bit near the knuckle," Davies remembered, "but Rosie has always been a feisty competitor. I suspect that she's going to be a great U.S. captain."
Paul Clifford, who has caddied for Davies on the women's tour but is nowadays plying his trade on the men's, agreed with Davies' view of Jones as a good competitor before noting, cheerfully, "Laura's even better."
"Laura," he continued, "is the most competitive player I've ever met. She's in Tiger's class. What's more, her competitiveness extends to everything she does, never mind whether it's backing horses or watching her beloved Liverpool at football."
Davies is definitely in the right mood for this week's event. Two years ago, she and Alison Nicholas, the captain in 2009 as well as this time around, fell out when Nicholas left Davies on the sideline for three sessions in a row. Nicholas' feeling was that the former British and U.S. Open champion was well below her extraordinary best, while Davies, typically, thought she was only a couple of swings away from playing some of the finest golf of her life.
That the two were able to put things to rights at a uniform-fitting session earlier this year was more than a little revealing. As much as anything else, it suggested that Davies was not fretting over the clothes, as she had at the Solheim previously.
In 1994 at The Greenbrier in West Virginia, when the rest of the players were at work on the practice ground in matching pink short-sleeve shirts, Davies was in her rain gear. She hated the uniform and was below par because of it.
Today, Ladies European Tour officials make sure that each player has clothes that have her feeling good about herself. As they have come to understand, the right outfit can have much the same effect as a holed putt across the first green.
It is, of course, just as likely that the one can lead to the other and, if Davies should begin this 12th Solheim Cup by making a 40-footer, the chances are that she will end up with rather more than the one point she needs to overtake Sorenstam.