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Laura Davies claims 64th career title

England's Laura Davies notched up the 64th victory of her career by beating a courageous Ana Larraneta from Spain at the second extra hole in the £220,000 P4 Norwegian Masters at Oslo GolfKlubb.

The 38-year-old from Surrey fired a final round one over par 73 to book her place in extra time after the diminutive Spaniard rattled off a faultless four under 68 in the sweltering heat by the beautiful Lake Bogstad to post the lead on five under par after 72 holes.

Marine Monnet and Karine Icher, the top two players from France, tied for third place on four under par. Monnet carded a two under par 70 and squandered the chance to make the playoff after missing a gilt edged six foot birdie opportunity at the final hole. And Icher will be less happy after dropping two shots in the final three holes when she led by one shot.

The 23-year-old from Châteauroux became too aggressive with her approach shots at the 16th and 18th holes, over shooting both greens and failing to make the par putts when needed.

Australia's Shani Waugh equalled the course record of 66, set by England's Samantha Head during the first round, and shared fifth place with a rejuvenated Sophie Gustafson from Sweden who carded a closing 71, moving into the top seven automatic places for The 2002 Solheim Cup team.

Davies began the day one shot clear of England's Kirsty Taylor and Icher, but struggled to break away from the field.

The six time Solheim Cup star turned in level par 36 and dropped into a tie for the lead after a bogey at the 12th. A birdie at the tricky 14th helped the cause and while Icher was struggling with her final three holes, and Larraneta, whose round included two birdies and a magnificent eagle at the second hole, waiting expectantly in the clubhouse on five under, Davies' luck ran out as her tee shot at the par four 17th found the ditch for the second time of the week.

A bogey ensued and the Spaniard, whose best finish on Tour was a tie for fifth at the Biarritz Ladies Classic last season, gawped at the prospect of facing one of the top players in Women's golf.

"It's going to be like David and Goliath, I'm going to have to look up at this big tall girl and I'll be so nervous," laughed Larraneta.

In the playoff, both players halved the 18th hole for the first time of asking, with the Spaniard making a six-foot par putt to keep the match alive. But Davies showed her class after the second climb up the steep hill, hitting a "hard wedge" to five feet.

Larraneta had the opportunity to birdie from 18 feet, but her ball bobbled and finished agonisingly short. Davies stepped up calmly and punched the air when her ball dropped for her first win since the 2001 WPGA International Matchplay Championship.

"I've managed to keep my record going," said Davies, who has won in each year of her career since turning professional in 1985.

"I'm not a big fan of playoffs. I could have won a bit earlier, but the bogey at 17 didn't help. I hit a good tee shot and it just bounced straight back into the ditch and it was always bogey from there.

"I found it quite difficult to make many birdies out there today, the pins were a bit harder, but I'll take the win even still.

"Ana played those two holes very well and I knew that anything could happen in the playoff. It's a good way to get your first win in sudden death because there is less pressure. The worst you can finish is second."

With Davies looking to add another major championship to her collection, she heads to Turnberry this week in top form having beaten a strong field. And with 40 points for The Solheim Cup standings, she has put herself into a strong position for automatic selection for Dale Reid's team, rising to eighth in the standings, one behind Gustafson who moved up one place.

"It's certainly confidence building," added Davies, who picked up the £33,000 winner's cheque.

"It's been a great week, the weather has been fantastic, the gallery have been great and now I am in a strong position to get into the team automatically."

Larraneta was still smiling and celebrating long after her narrow loss and having doubled her career earnings in one afternoon.

"This is definitely the best week of my life," said the 29-year-old from Pamplona.

"When I finished at five under, it just felt so good, especially after yesterday's 78. I looked at the leaderboard and I was going up and up all the time.

"Laura was so nice to me in the playoff, she was truly the best, so professional and she made me feel so relaxed. I didn't do anything wrong in the playoff, I had a chance to make birdie the second time, but the putt just jumped.

"But it was such a proud moment for me. You always dream of being up there with a chance to win and I had to pinch myself in the presentation standing next to Laura, Karine Icher and Marine Monnet - I was thinking - 'How good is this?"

Along with Ana Larraneta, four more players from the P4 Norwegian Masters qualified for next week's £1,000,000 Weetabix Women's British Open.

The four other players who were not otherwise exempt were Sweden's Mia Lojdahl, who finished eighth, England's Lora Fairclough, who finished tied for tenth alongside fellow qualifier Nina Karlsson from Sweden. And in a one hole playoff, Swede Sara Eklund defeated Finland's Riikka Hakkarainen to snatch the final spot.

The movers and shakers in The Solheim Cup rankings for 2002 were mainly England's Laura Davies and Sweden's Sophie Gustafson.

Davies picked up the maximum 40 points to move up to eighth position with 99.67 points, while Gustafson, with tie for fifth spot, moved into 7th on 103.00

Spain's Paula Marti keeps hold of sixth spot on 106.33, but Elisabeth Esterl from Germany slipped out of the automatic spots to ninth place on 94.59 points.

Marine Monnet did her chances the power of good with a consistent third place and consolidated her spot in ninth place on 96.423 points.

And with no top ten position this week for Denmark's Iben Tinning and Norway's Suzann Pettersen, they are still not guaranteed a spot and next week's Weetabix Women's British Open will see a clearer picture of who will be occupying the top seven automatic places.

Captain Dale Reid will need 12 players and has seven automatic qualifiers. The Scot will choose her five wildcard picks after play at he WPGA Championship of Europe at Royal Porthcawl GC at the end of August.


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