In year full of great stories, Davies' may be best

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Who is writing the scripts for the LPGA this year?

Mary Higgins Clark?

In a year of suspenseful twists and turns, of compelling protagonists and surprise endings, we’ve got another dramatic final chapter brewing in the women’s game.

Laura Davies is poised to make it awfully difficult to choose the best story of the year in women’s golf.

With a 5-under-par 67 Saturday at the Mizuno Classic, Davies moved into position to make history in the final round in Japan. At 51, she’s tied for the lead and looking to become the oldest winner of an LPGA event.

“It’s going to be tough, because there are so many good players who are playing well this week, so that would be a bonus,” Davies told reporters in Japan. “Obviously, it’s a bad thing, really, because it means I’m really old, but it would be a nice thing because it would mean I have a good record.”

The women’s game doesn’t get the attention the men’s game gets, but give the women credit, they’re delivering one compelling story after another in a bid to crack the mainstream sports feeds.

There was Lexi Thompson beating Michelle Wie in a final-round duel at the season-opening major, the Kraft Nabisco. There was Wie winning in her Hawaiian hometown, and Wie holding off then world No. 1 Stacy Lewis to win the U.S. Women’s Open. There was Mo Martin fashioning a Cinderella story to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open. There was Paula Creamer emotionally returning to the winner’s circle with a monster 75-foot eagle putt to prevail in a playoff in Singapore. There was teenager Lydia Ko and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb each winning twice. And then there was world No. 1 Inbee Park beating No. 2 Lewis in a duel in Taiwan just last week.

Davies, written off by so many, might trump them all as the tour’s best story this year.

Davies will be 51 years, 1 month and 5 days old on Sunday. Beth Daniel was 46 years, 8 months and 29 days old when she won the Canadian Women’s Open in 2003 to become the LPGA’s oldest winner.

Yes, there’s a lot of work to do Sunday in Shima-Shi, Mie, Japan, but Davies ratchets up the interest in Asia, where women’s golf is more celebrated than it is in the rest of the world. Davies has claimed 84 titles internationally, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 13 years, since the Wegmans Rochester International in June 2001. She hasn’t won anything outside a senior tour event in four years, but she remains one of the most colorful figures in the game, a towering personality who was once a bookmaker’s assistant and still relishes a good bet. She used to own a racehorse, likes fast cars and hates to practice. There isn't another protagonist quite like Davies in the women's game.

Davies will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame next summer and just last month was officially christened Dame Laura Davies at Buckingham Palace in a ceremony appointing her as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

After making it through a qualifier to play in the U.S. Women’s Open this past June, Davies was asked at Pinehurst why she still plays.

“I still think I can win,” she said. “A lot of people don’t think I can win, but I’m here this week thinking I can win the U.S. Open. There’s probably not more than a half-dozen people around the world that think that’s possible. But as long as you think you can win it, then maybe you actually can.

“That’s my driving force, to win more trophies and keep going. I love competing. If you don’t win, then try to finish second, or 10th. Do the best you can do. That’s what keeps me going.”

While Davies is relishing her entry into the World Golf Hall of Fame, she remains outside the LPGA Hall of Fame, where a strict points requirement must be met. She has 25 points and needs 27 to be inducted. A major championship victory is worth two points, a regular LPGA title worth a point. Though Davies could someday gain entry to the LPGA Hall of Fame through the Veterans Committee, she wants desperately to make it on points. Her loyalty to the Ladies European Tour might have cost her chances at getting the points needed in her prime, but she isn’t giving up on the quest.

Win or lose come Sunday, Davies’ improbable march makes for another compelling chapter in the LPGA’s storybook season.