Laura arrives but her caddie misses flight

Gurgaon: Laura Davies, a four-time Major champion, landed in India with her clubs alright but without her caddie for her title-defence of the Hero Women’s Indian Open at the lovely DLF Golf and Country Club.

Last year Davies arrived without her clubs and was only reunited with them on the morning of the first round, before she went out and shot 65 to lead the tournament. She subsequently won the title in an exciting four-way play-off. It’s just as well that her new set of clubs and putter arrived on schedule this year, as her first round tee-time on Friday is 7.40am. This time Davies’ caddie, Johnny Scott missed his flight and will land in India only a few hours before the tee-off.

Davies is in a high-profile group for the first round, drawn with fellow Solheim Cup player Sophie Gustafson and the recent Lacoste Ladies Open de France champion Felicity Johnson for the first two rounds.

Of the eagle she hit on the 18th last year she said, “I’m looking forward to it. Obviously something went right last year. It was a very strange week last year but I just remember the 18th. I hit a horrible tee shot down the first but made an amazing seven-iron over the trees to about 10 feet and holed the putt for eagle, so it’s only good memories for me.”

This week will be a fresh start after a five week break and Davies will be looking to end the season on a high note at the penultimate event of the 2011 Ladies European Tour season.

Like last year, she will not play a practice round, as she didn’t feel the need: “I’ll be straight on tomorrow: ready to go.”

“There are a lot of good players. The field strength has gone up. That’s what usually happens. They hear how good the tournament was and they go, ‘I’m going to go there next year. Now we’ve got Caroline Hedwall and Sophie Gustafson and quite a few of the European players who didn’t come last year heard good reports from the other players and have decided to come here and then play Dubai, so it’s a nice little two week trip.”

The first round of the tournament gets under way at 7am on Friday and after two rounds, the field of 108 will be reduced to the leading 60 professionals.

The stiffest challenge for the seven-time Henderson Money List winner, Davies, will come from Rookie Hedwall.  Only 22 years of age, Hedwall already has three titles under her belt this year. That has already assured her of the Rookie of the Year Award.

Gustafson, a four-time Money List champion, and winner of 29 titles internationally, including five on the LPGA and 14 on the LET. Gustafson who took off to see the splendours of the Taj Mahal with her caddy Kajsa Larsson the minute she landed in India, is the second highest ranked player in the 108-woman field this week.

Among the superstars with a flamboyance quotient is Christina Kim, who also has  a formidable record to boot.  This 27 year old has two victories on the Ladies PGA Tour and one each on the Ladies European Tour and Futures Tours respectively.  Her ‘Gun for Glory’ approach is certain to intimidate her opponents and she for sure is one of the key title contenders this week. Also in the fray are 2010 Money List winner South African Lee-Ann Pace and Gwladys Nocera of France.