Davies, with teens in sight, eyes off title No. 85
Laura Davies. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
She's the former world No. 1 taking on teenagers less than half her age, but Laura Davies is adamant she can match it with the new generation of golfing superstars in the capital this week.
After learning the Royal Canberra layout over the past three years, Davies is confident her long-hitting game will give her an advantage as she aims for her first Australian Open triumph since 2009.
The four-time major winner will be part of a star-studded field that will start the tournament on Thursday.
There's nine of the top 20 players in the world, including Yani Tseng, Australian legend Karrie Webb, million-dollar child prodigy Michelle Wie and teenage sensations Jessica Korda and Lydia Ko.
Davies has won more tournaments than all of them, but she has rarely rated a mention in the build-up. The big-hitting Brit isn't fazed.
At 49, Davies won her first major - the women's US Open in 1987 - before Ko and Korda were born.
'The age is irrelevant, to be honest,'' Davies said.
''You're out there playing against professional golfers who are all playing at a very high level. You don't look across the fairway and say, 'oh, there's a 14-year-old'.
''You just see her as a good player and the age side of it doesn't come into it. You know they're good players and you just try to beat them on your day.
''Absolutely I think I can beat them, I wouldn't be here if I didn't think that.''
Davies has won 84 titles since turning professional in 1985.
The only two years she hasn't recorded a victory are 2005 and 2011 and as she prepares for the 28th year of her professional career, Davies has no intention of slowing down.
She made her debut at Royal Canberra for the Ladies Classic in 2010 and has returned to the capital every year since.
Her winning record gives her the luxury of relaxing on the course and not feeling the increased pressure on the rising stars.
But being laid back doesn't mean Davies has lost her desire to win.
The Australian Open is being played in Canberra to celebrate the capital's centenary and organisers have lengthened the course to challenge the world's best. It's a decision which could suit Davies and her booming game off the tee.
''I always enjoy coming to Canberra. The LPGA field attracts the best players in the world and most of them are going to be there, so it will be interesting to see how they cope with this course,'' Davies said.
''There are a lot of strong holes, you've got to be accurate and that's why I haven't been successful [at Royal Canberra] so far.
''But the good thing is I feel like I'm driving the ball well now, the extra length helps the longer hitters like me.
''At the moment if I don't hit a perfect shot I tend to find a bit of trouble. You go on runs like that in your career and I'm on one at the moment.
''A bit of positive thinking can change that, and being here the past three years is definitely going to help and we do have a bit of an advantage over those who haven't been here before.''
LAURA DAVIES’ BIG FOUR HOLES
Hole 9 - Par 4, 370m: ‘‘The tees have gone way back this year to make it more difficult for everyone. It will be one that tests everyone when you’re making the turn because you need to get some momentum going into the back nine. Most of the big holes are on the back nine, but this is a tester.’’
Hole 12 - Par 4, 384m: ‘‘Probably the hardest hole statistically wise. You need a drive that requires a big draw around the corner of the dog-leg and it’s a small and narrow green. It’s a good hole any time, but now it’s going to be a monster. You need to be in the fairway because there’s danger left and right.’’
Hole 16 - Par 4, 387m: ‘‘It used to be a very easy par five, but now it’s a very tough par four. You need a very tight drive because if you don’t want to go too far right or your second shot is cut out. I imagine the tees will be forward so you could run out into the trees on the left as well if you hit your drive too far.’’
Hole 18 - Par 5, 485m: ‘‘Unfortunately I think they’ve ruined this hole with the new layout. They’ve pushed the tee right back. In the past, you could reach the green in two and give yourself a putt for eagle. It’s still a pivotal hole, because a par five with scoring opportunities to finish is always interesting.’’