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England's big three aiming for Ladies Masters

Europe's finest women golfers descended on this 'Olde-Worlde' corner of Cheshire for the £100,000
Kellogg's All-Bran Ladies British Masters, presented by The Daily Telegraph,at the De Vere Mottram Hall GC on the outskirts of Wilmslow.

England's Laura Davies, heads a strong field around this 6322-yard hard andfast running parkland course, with compatriots and fellow Solheim Cup team
mates Alison Nicholas and Trish Johnson also topping the bill in this 54hole event - the first British stop on 2001 Evian Tour.

But Tour rookies, Spain's Paula Marti and Norway's Suzann Pettersen, winnersthis season in Italy and France respectively, are looking to consolidate
their good form and pick up a second win of the year ahead of the moreestablished names.

Johnson, the defending champion, is in a chipper mood this week havingrecovered from a niggling elbow injury and is hoping to repeat last yearssuccess when she recovered a five shot deficit from Sweden's SophieGrönberg-Whitmore during a dramatic final round.

"It's great now," said Johnson of her elbow. "I am looking forward to this week, I always enjoy the course - it's nice and bouncy, which suits my gameand usually takes care of half the field too!" she quipped.

"You'll need to have a bit of luck out there, you could play some decent shots out there and end up losing your ball in places.

"In a three round tournament, you need to get off to a fast start and it would be nice to fire a nice little 65 in there tomorrow."

Davies, who endured a much publicised slump at the beginning of the year,
having not won for 13 months, bounced back with a resounding victory three
weeks ago in winner in the Rochester International and is confident that her
big hitting game has returned.

"Yeah, I'm playing well now and the old confidence is back," said Davies after her Pro-Am round, seeing the course for the first time.

"I like the course, it suits my game. You have to invent shots out there and that plays to my advantage. There are a few holes where you have to land the ball 30-40 yards short of the green and still you might have too much club.

"It's good for the 'feel' players I think - those players who hit it up in the air and hope for the ball to stop on the green are going to struggle. It's a good ball strikers course - if you don't hit it well, you can miss the greens in some seriously bad spots - it's certainly not going to be a putting competition this week."

The 38-year-old from West Byfleet has one goal in mind this year and that is
to win the British Open, a title that has eluded her grasp during a glittering career and one, if she wins this year at Sunningdale, will give her the two points needed to elevate her into the Hall of Fame.

"The event to win is the Women's British Open, that would get me in the Hall
of Fame," added the former World number one.

"I love Sunningdale, it seems to suit me. I have never done well around there, but I have only played there once and didn't play very well, in fact, I think I putted incredibly badly that week. But, there is a lot of space around there, so it should play very well into my game."

Nicholas was happy to return from a sojourn in the USA and despite not winning since the 1999 Hawaiian Open, she is still upbeat about her game. The 39-year-old Solheim Cup star who finished third here last year, realises that her form of late will have to improve to take the £15,000 first prize.

"It's great to be back on home ground, the game was struggling a little bit over in the States, but we'll see how it goes here. The course is very bouncy and playing short and I think a low score is going to win," said Nicholas.

"Lately, I have been worried about my results and not just letting it happen. I haven't been hitting it badly - I just haven't been scoring, which is what you need to do in this game."

Pettersen, who won the French Open was confident of her game after her practice round and with a powerful game at her fingertips, the big hitter form Oslo is looking to add another title soon.

"I made a lot of birdies out there," said the 2000 World Amateur champion, who finished seventh in the Evian Masters two weeks ago. "It's a great course and I am confident that I can do well here too."

With the weather predicted to be hot and steamy over the weekend, the golf
is sure to match with such high quality names in the field.

 


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