WILMINGTON, Del. - Some call it "Tiger-proofing" - that is, the current trend among tournament golf clubs to lengthen the course while tightening the fairways, forcing the longer players to keep their ultimate weapons - their drivers - under close wraps.
And so, for players like Laura Davies, coming to relatively wide-open DuPont Country Club means a chance to take off the leash, roll up the sleeves and let the big dog stretch its legs.
"I can't abide with these other courses where you have to constantly reload," said Davies, who is regarded as the longest hitter on the LPGA Tour. "I consider every year that if I play close to what I can do here, then I can win."
Ever since the McDonald's LPGA Championship moved to this 6,408 yard layout in 1994, Davies has had remarkable success here. She has won the event twice, in '94 and '96, and has only finished out of the top 10 once. In yesterday's first round, she made six birdies but irked herself by recording five bogeys along the way, finishing at 1-under 70.
"I definitely left a couple of shots out there; I should be 4-under right now," said Davies, who capped the round by nearly holing her third shot on the par-5 ninth, settling for a tap-in birdie instead. "I think I'd take 8-under [for the tournament] right now. Before I thought it would be 12, but I don't think it will be that much now. If you miss a fairway around here, you're in big trouble."
McGann stands out
Although her 1-over-par 73 wasn't the brightest spot of the day, colorful Michelle McGann was hard to miss on the course. Never shy and always fashionable, McGann sported a mostly pink skirt, dotted with turtles and other animals, designed by Lilly Pulitzer. Perhaps the seven-time tour winner is hoping the garb will spark a change in fortune for her at DuPont - her best finish here is a tie for 25th in 1998.
"[The course is] playing harder than I've ever seen it before," said McGann, who last won an event in 1997. "The rough is pretty thick; even if you're just off into it, you're dead."
Play was delayed about 15 minutes yesterday morning as workers cleared debris off the 18th hole. The tree limbs fell during a storm late last night. ... Defending champion Juli Inkster, who brought DuPont to its knees with her 16-under-par masterpiece last year, couldn't replicate her performance. She is tied for 37th after shooting 1-over 72. ... Baltimore-native Tina Barrett shot par on both nines, finishing tied for 20th at even.