Davies, Pace set for Dubai tussle over Merit title

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Laura Davies remains a force to be reckoned with in women's golf at age 47.

Fresh off a Women's Indian Open victory last month, Davies comes into this week's Dubai Ladies Masters with another chance to win the Order of Merit given to Europe's top women's golfer.

Davies won the first of her seven Order of Merits in 1985.

The Englishwoman needs a top-two finish in the season-ending tournament on the Ladies European Tour to have any chance of grabbing the crown from Lee-Anne Pace, who will win it if she finishes in the top five.

The 29-year-old Pace would become the first South African woman to win the Order of Merit.

Davies has won five titles this year in New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Spain and India to lift her career total to 79.

"I played really well and really consistently in Europe this year," Davies said.

"It's a pretty simple equation. I have to finish first or second or else I'm done for the money list. It could be a really great week for me. But I'm under no illusions. Lee-Anne is still the big favorite to actually win the money list. At least I have one more shot to turn the tables."

Pace, who also has won five tournaments this year, said she respected Davies but wasn't going to let her status as a golfing great change the way she approached the tournament at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai.

"She's a great player. She has won so many tournaments and has all the experience in the world," Pace said. "At the same time, I'm still in form and playing really well. I don't see myself worrying about her, simply because I have to do what I have to do. I can't think about how she is going to play."

Davies is not the only player Pace has to watch in the 108-player field.

No. 7-ranked and defending champion In-kyung Kim of South Korea is entered, along with No. 10 Michelle Wie. There is also plenty of buzz surrounding 15-year-old American Alexis Thompson, who turned professional in June and will be making her first appearance in Dubai.

Davies, who needs one more major or two more wins on the LPGA Tour to qualify for the Hall of Fame, acknowledged there are plenty of promising, young golfers on the tour these days. But Davies said she was not yet ready to hand over the reins to a new generation.

"I have no plans to stop playing. If I'm competitive, I don't want to do anything else," she said. "I've always said if you can walk, you can play golf. It's not like you have to be running the 100 meters in 9 seconds. You just have to walk around the golf course and if you are good enough, which obviously I still am, I don't see an end to it."

Davies said she has been inspired to keep playing by Tom Watson, who at 59 lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink in last year's British Open.

"I use Tom as the milestone now," she said. "And if he can beat those players at 59, then I don't see why I shouldn't play at 55, 56. ... As soon as I'm not playing well enough, you won't see me."

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