KETTERING, Ohio – It’s a party of past champions at the US Senior Women’s Open, where there’s nothing left to prove but much to gain.
Laura Davies, the first to win the US Senior Women’s Open, carded a bogey-free dream round of 5-under 68 to take a share of the lead at 4-under 215, with Helen Alfredsson, whose roller-coaster day didn’t settle down til she signed for a 75. Alfredsson won the second edition of the Senior Women’s Open.
Meanwhile, Annika Sorenstam, last year’s runaway champion, was down by as many as six strokes Saturday afternoon but finished the day within one. Sorenstam’s eventful round of even par had five bogeys – including a three-putt from 5 feet on No. 6 – and five birdies.
“I felt very jittery,” Sorenstam said. “I felt very uncomfortable. I couldn’t really find anything. I felt like I had 10 cups of coffee, and I haven’t had coffee all week.”
Davies hobbled into the media room early week with tape on her right Achilles heel, an injury suffered during a massage at the AIG Women’s British Open at Muirfield. While she withdrew from three events in the lead-up to NCR Country Club, Davies wasn’t about to miss this week, though the pain had moved to her calf muscle after funny walking for several weeks.
Davies began Saturday seven shots back but credited morning acupuncture treatment with helping improve her play. While it was still painful to walk, it no longer hurt to swing.
“The feelings are exactly the same,” said Davies of being back in contention for the first time in four years. “I can assure you it would feel no different if I was in contention on the LPGA. The job would probably be 10 times harder because instead of being one of the longer hitters. I’d be waving to Nelly (Korda) about 50 yards up the fairway and definitely Lexi (Thompson). So that’s slightly different. But the feelings and the being a bit scared on the first tee tomorrow for all the ones in contention, it will be the same for all of us.”
Many of the friendships, and the rivalries, this week at NCR are older than today’s stars on the LPGA.
Davies and Alfredsson met roughly four decades ago at a European Team Championship in Holland.
“She was so long, and we were like, ‘Who is this person?'” said Alfredsoon. “We were told to lay up, and by the time we hit our second shot we were at her drive, and it’s like, this is not working; we’ve got to figure out something. We’ve been friends ever since. I remember they won that year, and they had to perform something to ‘Thriller,’ and that was as bad as anything I’ve ever seen.”
Sorenstam will tee it up in the penultimate group alongside Jill McGill, a senior rookie who trials by one. McGill, 50, told her two kids, Blaze and Bella, that if she was in the top 10 after two rounds, they could fly up from Dallas for the weekend. They arrived late Friday night with dad.
Sorenstam and McGill were paired together in the final group of the 2002 US Women’s Open at Prairie Dunes, won by Juli Inkster.
Only six players remain under par. Leta Lindley, another senior rookie who holds a share of third, will play alongside Catriona Matthew (1 under.)
Inkster, who has twice finished runner-up at this event, trails by five. No American player has ever won the US Senior Women’s Open.
The top 11 players on the leaderboard boast 14 USGA titles between them, and while tour golf is no longer part of their lives, the competitive juices still flow freely.
“I’m sure like the girls that play pickleball or tennis, they are no less competitive there,” said Alfredsson.
“Play backgammon against me, it’s the same. Here we are walking the dog and you see somebody in front of you, and it’s like, yeah, I can catch him. It’s so stupid, but it’s always part of you.”