Dame Laura Davies thought she should have been in this week’s RICOH Women British Open as of right, but the legend of the game made it anyway after a long day’s wait and a dramatic 14-way play-off in the Final Qualifying tournament at the Castle Course, St Andrews yesterday.
The 53-year-old legend shot a two-under 70 – despite a couple of late dropped strokes – in the worst wind conditions of the day, finishing a couple of shots behind the early leaders of the day’s shootout, who included the US Women’s Open champion Paula Creamer.
However Dame Laura feared the conditions might improve for later starters and so it proved, meaning she was pitched into a huge playoff in the gloaming over the Home of Golf with Scots Sally Watson, Heather MacRae, Vikki Laing and Laura Murray among those in sudden death.
A par in the play-off allowed the all-time great into her 37th successive Women’s British Open, although she thought she as a past champion from 1986 she should have had an exemption into this week’s event at Kingsbarns.
“I’ve played the last 36 Opens and never had to qualify, so this was a new experience for me and I didn’t like it,” she said.
“As a past champion I’ve had people saying to me “you should be in” and I happen to agree with them. I mean I saw Mark O’Meara a couple of weeks ago playing his last Open as a 60-year-old.
“I’m pleased to have come through because I’ve been moaning about it for quite a while. But you’ve got to forget about that and go shoot a number.
“If you don’t play good enough golf, you don’t get in these tournaments and you’ve only got yourself to blame and that’s certainly been the case with me.”
Creamer left no room for doubt with her four-under 68 in the second group out that stood up easily despite the improvement in conditions.
“It’s the first time I’ve been here and because we were at the Scottish we didn’t have much preparation, but what an awesome little gem, such a fun course to play,” enthused the Solheim Cup player, now 30.
“It’s huge to qualify. I haven’t missed a British Open since I turned professional and this week I knew I had to do it the hard way.
“But to get in this way, I think it’s an even sweeter feeling going into the championship.”
The highlight of Creamer’s round was an eagle on the seventh hole, when she hit driver, six-iron and arrived at the green to find her ball “literally hanging on the edge of the hole, so nearly a two”.
South Africa’s Ashleigh Budai and Tiffany Joh, another American, later matched Creamer’s 68, but Finn Usula Wikstrom in one of the final groups snatched first place with a 67.
Laing, MacRae and Watson all came through the play-off at the first extra hole but Murray lost out in a four-way secondary play-off for the final place at Kingbarns.
The trio who succeeded increase the Scots contingent in the field on Thursday to seven with Catriona Matthew, Carly Booth, Kylie Henry and Pamela Pretswell already qualified.