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LPGA AT LOS COYOTES : Daniel Swinging in Right Direction After Four-Year Struggle

Times Staff Writer

Beth Daniel has come to terms with her golf game.

This is a golf game that includes a picturesque swing that, at its best, produces high approach shots that land with great frequency near the pin.

Daniel, 32, is reclaiming the top spot on the leader board more often than not these days. But the pressure that accompanies that orbit of achievement, which she couldn’t always handle, is now a fact of life that she seems to accept with much more ease.

At times in her illustrious career the immaculate swing has defied her. At other times the stress of being favored to win has backed her into an emotional corner from which it was impossible to swing.

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“Beth is coming off a four-year struggle, and now is a threat to win every single week,” said Pat Bradley, who, with Daniel, is competing in the LPGA’s Nippon Travel-MSB tournament at Los Coyotes that begins today.

Before Daniel’s victory in August in the Washington (D.C.) Open, she had not won an LPGA event since 1985 in San Diego.

Since winning in Washington, she has won two other tournaments, giving her three victories in six weeks.

This easily puts her among the favorites to win again this week and her game is ideally suited to the course.

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“Beth has a great chance to win here because she hits the ball very high and that’s an advantage on a course with elevated greens like this one,” said LPGA player Susan Sanders.

Daniel’s victory in Washington freed her from an almost crippling barrier that had built up over four years.

Daniel had finished second eight times in the past two years. Her swing had no discernible flaws and she was learning to master her temperment.

With her victory in Washington came not a $45,000 paycheck, but something golfers will tell you money can’t buy--confidence.

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“In Washington I was able to break that barrier down,” Daniel said. “Last week, in particular, I wasn’t nervous, nothing. It didn’t matter if I won, came in second, third, fourth, whatever. I’d already won twice, I’ve had a great year. So there was no pressure.”

Daniel is feeling good about her chances this week.

“It’s a very good golf course for me. I like the layout very much. Actually, I was really tired coming in here after the past few weeks and I was thinking about withdrawing, but my caddy told me I should stay in it because this is a very good course for me. And it is. And after playing the practice round, I’d say it definitely is.”

LPGA Notes

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Beth Daniel says eight-under par is a score that should win the tournament. . . . The players are generally excited about the layout of the course, which is hillier than they are accustomed to. The fairways are in good condition and course superintendent Bill Gallegos has had his crews working into the night, trying to get some greens into shape that had been damaged by fungus this summer. Players say the greens are now quite playable.


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