LPGA Championship plays to Davies' game Event's wet conditions favor tour's longer hitters


WILMINGTON, Del. -- The rains finally ended yesterday, so the first round of the LPGA Championship is expected to go off on schedule at DuPont Country Club.

An LPGA tournament, rain and DuPont course superintendent Earl Shafer have had a love/hate relationship in the '90s.

Rain has been a problem every year since 1991, first for the McDonald's event, and, since 1994, for the LPGA Championship.

Things were so bad two years ago, one round was canceled, and it was played as a 54-hole tournament.

It is no coincidence therefore, that, with wet conditions favoring the longer hitters, Laura Davies, Kelly Robbins and Chris Johnson have won the past four championships.

No one, however, has played the rolling, 6,386-yard, par-71 layout like Davies. Since 1993, she has won three times, finished second by a stroke and tied for fourth.

"I love it here -- the course, the atmosphere, everything and even with the conditions, they can't shorten the golf course much," she said yesterday, as the dry weather permitted the pro-am to go on as scheduled.

Players always feel more comfortable returning to the site of past successes, so this tournament could not have come at a better time for Davies.

"I'm having a miserable year -- have had since Phoenix [March 1997 when she won the tournament for the fourth straight year]. I've putted awful, and when you do that, it gets into other parts of your game -- putting pressure on you to drive it well and hit your approach shots close."

Earlier this year, at the Dinah Shore, she hit most of the greens in regulation, "but I missed 15 putts inside of eight feet, and lost by two."

At the Titleholders championship, "I had nine lip-outs -- putts that actually went in and came out, not just rolled across the hole."

Last week, in a tournament in Japan, where she was 21st, she went to putting left-hand low. It was something she had done on occasion in the past. She said it felt good and she planned to continue with it this week.

NOTES: Swedes Helen Alfredsson and Liselotte Neumann (a winner in Japan last week, too) have each won twice, but don't feel sorry for 1997 Player of the Year Annika Sorenstam. She has finished in the top 10 in all eight events in which she has played. Thursday/Friday tee times for Tina Barrett (12: 20/8: 50); Kim Williams (7: 30/1); Neumann (9/12: 30); Sorenstam (9: 10/12: 40); Karrie Webb (noon/8: 30) and Nancy Lopez (12: 50/9: 20).

Pub Date: 5/14/98

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