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WPGA Championship preview

Eight players from the victorious 2000 Solheim Cup team tee it up on Thursday in the return of the WPGA Championship of Europe, played over the magnificent links of Royal Porthcawl GC in South Wales.

The WPGA Championship has long been recognised as a top event in the women's calendar and thanks to the 2009 Wales Ryder Cup bid, the event has been resurrected after a gap of one year.

Europe's top women golfers are bidding for the lions share of the £400,000 prizefund, the third richest on Tour, and it will take a golfer of all round abilities to conquer the wind, hard running fairways, sloping greens and deep, menacing pot bunkers at this outstanding 6183-yard course.

Heading the cast is 1999 champion, England's Laura Davies, who arrived fresh from her commentary stint with the BBC at The Open. The former World number one rediscovered her form after a much-publicised slump, having not won for thirteen months, by winning the Rochester Invitational in June.

The 38-year-old from West Byfleet feels that her week of commentating on links golf will help her retain her title.

"I am looking forward to it. I love playing on links courses and I think that it sets up well for me this week," said Davies, who, unusually, was found on the practice ground working on some new shots.

"The biggest thing I learned from watching the men last week is how straight they were hitting their drives. I usually shape the ball to find the fairways, so that is why I am working on driving the ball straighter."

Solheim Cup stars, England's Alison Nicholas and Trish Johnson, Spain's Raquel Carriedo and Swedes Catrin Nilsmark, Helen Alfredsson, Sophie Gustafson and of course Carin Koch, who holed the winning putt at Loch Lomond last year, are looking for a good week before they head to Sunningdale in preparation for the new "Major" in Women's golf, the Weetabix Women's British Open.

Local interest at Porthcawl will centre on Abergavenny's Becky Morgan, who, in her rookie season, has brought her strong amateur record into the professional ranks. Morgan finished runner up in her European debut at the Ladies French Open last month, after being narrowly defeated in a playoff by Norway's Suzann Pettersen.

And other new faces on Tour will also aim to impress, such as Spanish sensation Paula Marti, gunning for her third win in her rookie season.

After victories in the La Perla Italian Open and the Kellogg's All-Bran Ladies British Masters, the 21-year-old from Barcelona is confident that she can do well on her first visit as a professional on a seaside course.

"I haven't played links golf since the 1997 British Amateur links, but I always look forward to a challenge. I know it's going to be a different kind of game, hitting the ball low and playing some unusual kinds of shots, but as long as I stay out of the bunkers and the wind doesn't't blow too hard, it'll be a great week."

Pettersen, winner at the French Open in June is also hoping to add another win in her rookie season. The 20-year-old from Oslo is confident of having another good week here.

"I'm ready," said Pettersen on the eve of the championship. "It's a different kind of game and they will have to make the course a bit easier because if the wind blows hard here, it could get tricky.

"Anytime you get into trouble, you are going to have to make a good recovery shot, so hopefully, I will manage to stay out if it."

 


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