Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 1 December 2020

Laura Davies embraces new challenge of illustrious career at Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic

Hall of Fame golfer will be making her first appearance at the Emirates Golf Club event - and she hopes her eyes will not let her down

Laura Davies is a four-time major winner and was in 2015 inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Courtesy Tristan Jones
Laura Davies is a four-time major winner and was in 2015 inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Courtesy Tristan Jones

Not making her Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic debut until 4:30pm on Wednesday, Dame Laura Davies is using the relatively unusual tee-time to her advantage.

“Well, Liverpool are playing Champions League and I probably won’t get to sleep until about 2:30am, so that’s one good thing. Quite pleased with that,” says the avid fan of the English champions, who given the pandemic-enforced conditions this week, will be confined to her hotel room for much of the Dubai stay.

In its second year, the Moonlight Classic is this time being held behind closed doors within a bio-secure environment.

“I’m watching the US show Billions at the moment,” Davies adds. “So maybe a few episodes of that tomorrow and then on to the course.”

Now 57, Davies has been used to a starring role for much of her career. She is a seven-time winner of the Ladies European Tour (LET) Order of Merit – a record – was the first non-American to finish top of the LPGA Tour money list, boasts 45 victories on the LET – another record – and more than 40 more worldwide, including four majors. In 2015, Davies was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Given everything that’s gone before, there’s not much left to tick off her golfing to-do list. Thankfully, this week, her first appearance at the world’s first professional day-night tour event, provides something fresh.

Davies is a regular visitor to Dubai – she was a longtime Golf in Dubai ambassador and counts the Majlis course among her favourite in the world – but got introduced to the tournament’s Faldo Course only on Tuesday.

That, and the unique Pro-Am format, where on Wednesday she will play seven or eight holes in daylight, then the remaining through dusk and under the floodlights, adds a little extra ingredient as well.

“You can teach an old dog new tricks, so that’s gone against that saying,” Davies says. “I've played the par-3 course here under floodlights, so had a bit of a taste of it.

“But I must admit my eyes aren't brilliant, I did struggle a bit. I’m assuming I’m going to struggle a bit this time – possibly with contact – but it’s the same for everyone, so you’ve just got to get on with it. But it’s nice to do a different thing. It’ll be interesting.”

Laura Davies is making her first appearance at the Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic. Courtesy Tristan Jones
Laura Davies is making her first appearance at the Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic. Courtesy Tristan Jones

The field this week makes it exciting, also. At world No 9, Minjee Lee is the highest-ranked player competing, while former world No 1 and two-time major champion Lydia Ko makes her Dubai debut. Then you've got leading LET players in Georgia Hall, Charley Hull and Amy Boulden, not to mention Davies and Catriona Matthew, a major winner and victorious captain with Europe at last year's Solheim Cup.

Perhaps, Davies says, in a way the pandemic has actually worked in the tournament's favour.

“If this had been a normal year maybe the tournament would've suffered,” she says. “But, because we’ve had such a weird year, players just want to play. And it just goes to prove if it’s a good tournament on a great course at a great venue, then the players will come.

“I think this tournament definitely benefitted from that; if it had been a full schedule then maybe some of the LPGA [Tour] stars wouldn’t have come over. And there’s Solheim Cup points up for grabs as well, and top European players trying to get those.”

For the lead women’s European circuit, it’s great simply to be back on track. The LPGA Tour and the men’s European Tour lent their support this year and thus provided much-needed impetus, but then the pandemic struck and that was lost somewhat. The tour didn’t put on a tournament for five months from March.

World No 9 Minjee Lee is the highest-ranked player in Dubai this week. AFP
World No 9 Minjee Lee is the highest-ranked player in Dubai this week. AFP

“It’s typical LET: we get a bit of good news and something bad happens,” Davies says. “It’s obviously nothing compared to what’s happening in the world, but it’s such a shame for the LET because there were such positives and there was a lovely schedule.

“But the good thing is, from what I can understand, most of the sponsors are staying with us and hopefully next year, if things get back to a little more normal, we might have that same schedule or something pretty similar to it, especially with the backing of the LPGA and the European Tour and all the other people trying to help us.

“So I’m confident that all the good work that was done last year is not going to be undone by the pandemic. But you just don’t know."

As for her own game, Davies isn't sure either. The bad weather back home restricted her to playing only twice since she made the cut at last month’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – the first time she had done so in five years. However, some “abysmal” putting on the weekend in Pennsylvania led eventually to a 72nd-placed finish.

That’s why a top 10 or top 20 in Dubai, especially considering the different format, would represent a decent enough result, Davies says.

“Don’t know the course, and don’t know how my game is, but just hoping that something clicks early on,” she says.

That's early in the evening, obviously.

Updated: November 3, 2020 04:08 PM

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