|From left: LET Executive Director Alexandra Armas, Werner Holzhauser from UNIQA, Laura Davies, Nicole Gergely, Christine Wolf, Stefanie Michl and Klaus Schneeberger, President GC Föhrenwald.
The Ladies European Tour returns to Golf Club Föhrenwald in Austria this week for the seventh edition of the UNIQA Ladies Open, presented by Raiffeisen, which begins on Friday.
England’s Laura Davies will be attempting to win the title for the fourth time in five years following victories in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
With runner-up finishes in 2006 and 2009 and a tie for third place in 2005, Davies has not ended outside the top three positions in six appearances at this event, so it’s easy to see why this is one of her favourite tournaments on the schedule.
The course, located 40 minutes outside Vienna, is in immaculate condition and has wide open fairways offering the perfect opportunity to utilise the driver.
Davies once commented that you could land a jumbo jet on the par-five 18th, however, finding the lake right of the green can result in disaster as she found in 2009, losing to Swede Linda Wessberg at the third extra hole of a play-off.
“I’ve won three times and if I hadn’t put my ball into the water on 18 in a play-off, if I hadn’t done that, it could have been four,” said Davies, 47. “But I’ve only got good memories round here and I think my worst finish is third, so in six years that’s a good result.”
From her 79 career titles, Davies has won three events four times: the Italian Open (1987, 1988, 1992 and 1996), the English Open (1992, 1993, 1995 and 1996) and the Standard Register Ping on the LPGA, which she won four years consecutively from 1994-1997.
She won five titles on the LET last year but is yet to win in 2011, admitting that now is the time to end the dry spell with her 12th appearance on The European Solheim Cup team just around the corner.
“On the edge of The Solheim Cup, over the next three weeks I’d love three really strong finishes,” she said.
“Recently I’ve not done very well at all: missed four cuts in America, made one last week and didn’t do very well at the weekend. Results wise, I’ve not played well the last six months but playing-wise, I’m hitting it really well. It’s just my putting that’s let me down. I did most of my qualifying last year but hopefully this week will be a spring board to my form returning.”
There are two other European Solheim Cup Team members in the field: England’s Melissa Reid, who tied for third in Austria last year and Henderson Rookie Caroline Hedwall from Sweden, who will make her tournament debut.
Home hopes will rest on the shoulders of eight Austrian players including professionals Stefanie Michl and Nicole Gergely as well as amateurs Marina Stutz, Nina Muhl and Christine Wolf.
Irish amateur Leona Maguire has received an invitation to play as has young Spanish professional Carlota Ciganda, while five of this year’s LET tournament champions will further enhance the field of 108 players.
Slovakian Zuzana Kamasova, South African Ashleigh Simon and Becky Brewerton of Wales join Hedwall and Reid, while Wessberg will be hoping to wrest the title back from Davies and take the €30,000 first prize money.
Format of play will be 54-holes of strokeplay with a cut to the leading 50 professionals and ties after 36 holes.