It’s not easy in the modern women’s professional game for a home golfer to be the “best of British”. Only Karen Stupples (2004) and Catriona Matthew (2009) have claimed victory in the Ricoh Women’s Open since it became a major 17 years ago. Georgia Hall’s day of destiny awaits at Royal Lytham, where Matthew, of course, claimed her success nine years ago.
Joint-third at Kingsbarns 12 months ago, Hall is in the mix again heading into the final round. On 12-under-par after birdieing the last for a 69, the 22-year-old from Bournemouth is just one shot off the lead, held by Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum. Korea’s So Yeon Ryu, a two-time major winner, is lurking ominously on 11-under, but there’s no doubt that Hall has the lion’s share of support on the Lancashire coast.
Her first dropped shot of the week came after 49 holes, a hole after Phatlum, the overnight leader, had her first slip up in the event. Hall, who is bidding to pull off something much more significant than winning the 2016 Oates Vic Open – her biggest win to date in the paid ranks – got up and down from a greenside bunker at the next to avoid further spillage before making back-to-back birdies at the 15th and 16th. After taking a bogey at the 17th, her approach at the last was majestic. An eight-footer was duly dispatched, to the delight of the home fans in the grandstands around the green on a sunny evening.
“It was much harder today than the first two rounds,” she admitted afterwards. “My long game wasn’t quite on, but I putted very well. That saved me. I’m really excited about tomorrow and we’ll see what happens. I was in a similar position last year heading into the final day and hopefully I will be a bit more relaxed on this occasion.”
Phatlum, a 28-year-old who is bidding to become the second Thai player to claim the title after Ariya Jutanugarn tasted success at Woburn two years ago, showed little sign of feeling any pressure. “I had a very solid round today,” she said of matching Hall’s three-under effort. Asked how she planned to try and stay calm on the final day, Phatlum added: “I will just keep singing on the course.”
Ryu, a former world No 1 who lost in a play-off in last month’s KPMG PGA Championship, recovered from being two-over after four to make seven birdies, including four in a row, as she shot a 67. “My attitude was great today and hopefully I bring my A game tomorrow,” said the 28-year-old. “I’m in a pretty good position but sometimes it’s better not to expect anything.”
Others still in the mix include world No 3 Sung Hyun Park, who birdied two of the last four holes, including the difficult 17th, to sit on 10-under alongside Japan’s Mamiko Higa and Australia’s Minjee Lee after they carded matching 71s.
Matthew, flying the Saltire on her own over the weekend, played her best golf of the week yet had to settle for her worst score – a level-par 72. “It’s a crazy game,” declared the 48-year-old, who had to come out backwards after finding an “impossible” lie in a greenside bunker at the short ninth, costing her a double-bogey. The Solheim Cup captain repaired that damage with birdies at the tenth and 15th before a “poor shot” into the 17th found sand, but she was pleased to get up and down at the last to save par after being bunkered once more, this time from the tee.
“I played really well today, driving it really well, and you’ve still got to hit it well around here even when there’s no wind,” said Matthew, who sits joint-21st on three-under, three shots behind playing partner Ariya Jutanugarn after the Ladies Scottish Open champion carded a 69.