Dame Laura Davies will pull a 2-iron from her bag on Thursday and strike the first blow at Royal Troon at 6:30 a.m. local time. With bunkers down the left-hand side, there’s no need for driver. (Shame because who doesn’t love to see her craft that pyramid tee out of turf with her wedge?)
Instead, she’ll aim to get one out there safely about 220 yards, leaving herself with an 8-iron for the approach.
There won’t be any fans to see to see this action, of course. Just her playing competitors – Alena Sharp and Olivia Mehaffey – and their caddies and perhaps a handful of R&A officials. But the golf world will be there in spirit because few players in the game have shaped it so.
This marks Davies’ 40th appearance in this championship, and she’s not just competing, she’s commentating, too. She’ll be working on the broadcast team for Sky Sports, which will be beamed to viewers worldwide, including Golf Channel/NBC.
“I think it’ll be a cracking week,” she said.
A general view of the 18th green and clubhouse ahead of the AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon (Photo by R&A – Handout/R&A via Getty Images)
It’s an honor to hit the first tee shot, but more importantly, noted the World Golf Hall of Famer, she gets a clear course. And after last week’s spotlight on slow play at the Scottish Open, it’s a welcome sight.
“I played 18 holes yesterday morning at 7:30, basically on my own, in two hours and 15 minutes,” said Davies, “played every hole properly, chipped and putted on quite a few. I’m not saying we can get ’round in two hours and 15 minutes, but we should be ’round in under four, as long as the weather is not crazy. If the weather is crazy then obviously you get up on those holes around the turn, anything can happen. You can spend half an hour on the tee if you’re unlucky.”
The weather on Thursday doesn’t look promising, with wind gusts of up to 55 to 60 mph predicted around 9 a.m. Tournament Troon will look nothing like what they’ve faced in the practice rounds thanks to what they’re calling, “Storm Ellen.”
The first major of the year brings in 144 players from 32 countries to a carefully constructed and sanitized bubble. While a number of top-10 players are missing from the field, two headliners – Inbee Park and Brooke Henderson – make their return to the LPGA this week.
World No. 1 Jin Young Ko has yet to compete on the LPGA this year and joins Sung Hyun Park, Sei Young Kim, Hyo Joo Kim, So Yeon Ryu and Jeong Eun Lee6 as a continent of top South Korean players who have delayed their restarts.
Even so, staging a major with players from over the globe in the COVID-19 era is a victory for the women’s game. The fact that it’s on a classic course like Troon for the first time makes it all the more meaningful.
“This is a big week for women’s golf,” said Stacy Lewis, who won last week in Scotland. “To be playing here on a golf course that’s been in the men’s rotation for a very long time, and didn’t even allow female members to come play this golf course for a very long time, so this is a really big week.”
Davies praised the conditions of Troon this week, declaring these the best links greens she’s ever putted on. After five months away from tournament golf, the four-time major winner said she hit some of the worst shots of her career last week at The Renaissance Club, but she has no plans of slowing down.
“I think if you still have that fire in your belly, that you just think maybe this is my week when you get there on Thursday morning. … I’m 56 now and I’m not saying I could ever win again, that would be asking too much, “ said Davies, “but I’m thinking that hopefully this COVID has not done too much damage to my game.”
Georgia Hall of England speaks to Laura Davies of England during a practice round ahead of the 2020 AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon. (Photo by R&A – Handout/R&A via Getty Images)
Georgia Hall pulled into her reserved parking spot at Royal Troon, marked 2018 champion, and looked down the row to see Davies’ decorated with 1986. Hall made sure to mention to Davies that she was born a decade after that victory.
“She’s a great friend and person and idol to look up to,” said Hall. “I actually texted her last night saying, ‘Oh, look at you hitting the first tee shot – don’t hold us up.’ ”
Hannah Burke played nine holes with Davies on Tuesday at Troon and told Davies that she was once was her standard-bearer at an event. Brittany Lincicome did that too.
Only a handful of players in the field at Troon have been alive more years than Davies has played in this event.
“It’s remarkable,” said World No. 2 Danielle Kang, “because Dame Laura Davies is a legend, an absolute legend.”