English starlet Charley Hull has broken her duck in style on the LPGA Tour after winning the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida.
The 20-year-old claimed the coveted title in the US circuit’s season-ending event with a record-breaking 19-under-par total after a flawless 66 in the final round in Naples.
She won by two shots from Korea’s So Yeon Ryu to complete a dream double for English golf after Matt Fitzpatrick’s victory in the European Tour’s DP World Tour Championship earlier in the day.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling,” admitted Hull as she savoured her second professional title triumph, having made the breakthrough when winning the LET’s Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco in 2014.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but, after that dry patch for a few years, it feels good now to get a win.”
Hull’s 269 aggregate beat the tournament record, set by Cristie Kerr in 2015, by two shots.
The win earned the Kettering-born player a $500,000 pay-day and lifted her to fourth in the final Race to CME Globe standings.
One in front heading into the final round, Hull made a nervous-looking start by hitting two wayward shots in the opening two holes.
She then opened up a two-shot lead over playing partner Ryu before the pair came to the 17th tee locked together.
That proved the decisive hole as Hull made a birdie-4 to enjoy a two-shot swing after Ryu’s approach ended up near the lip in a greenside bunker.
Hull was a member of the Great Britain & Ireland team that recovered from a poor opening session to beat the US 10½–9½ in the 2012 Curtis Cup at Nairn.
After turning pro the following year, she reeled off five consecutive second-placed finishes
before shaking off her bridesmaid’s tag with that win in Morocco.
She tied for second in the ANA Inspiration, a major, earlier this year, and has now fulfilled her huge potential with the biggest win of her career by far.
Former world No 1 Lydia Ko, who’d led at the halfway stage following a sensational 62 in the second round, finished joint-10th.
Closing efforts of 73 and 72 saw the Kiwi, winner for the past two years, lose out to world No 2 Ariya Jutanugarn from Thailand in the battle for the Race to the CME Globe title.
Catriona Matthew finished 51st in the Race to the CME Globe standings after tying for 46th. The Scottish No 1 closed with a 72 for 288 to earn $6,836.
• The PGA Tour’s RSM Classic will be concluded today after darkness halted a play-off after two holes at Sea Island in Georgia.
Four players, including Swede Henrik Norlander and four-time PGA Tour winner Camilo Villegas, remain standing in the sudden-death shoot-out.
It followed Norlander, who is playing on a sponsor’s invitation, and Villegas, as well as Canadian Mackenzie Hughes and American Blayne Barber duo Billy Horschel all finishing with 17-under-par 265 totals.
Horschel missed a short par putt at the first play-off hole to bow out, with the others making par on two visits back to the 18th hole.
Play will resume at 8 am local time on the par-3 17th hole.
• Martin Laird is heading to Australia next week to make his first European Tour appearance since last year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
The US-based player has entered the Australian PGA Championship, which gets the 2017 European Tour schedule underway next Thursday along with the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
Joining Laird, who missed this year’s Scottish Open as he concentrated on the PGA Tour, at RACV Royal Pines Resort in Queensland are Stephen Gallacher and Duncan Stewart.
The latter is staying on in Australia after joining forces with Russell Knox in this week’s World Cup of Golf at Kingston Heath in Melbourne.