Lytham delivered again for a home player. Nine years after Catriona Matthew became a major winner at the Lancashire venue, Georgia Hall followed in her spikemarks by also claiming the Ricoh Women’s British Open title.
The 22-year-old English player prevailed in a thrilling last-day duel in the sunshine with Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum. She’s just the fifth British golfer to win a women’s major after Matthew, Laura Davies, Karen Stupples and Alison Nicholas.
Hall, who had tied for third at Kingsbarns 12 months earlier, hit the front for the first time all week with just two holes to play. To get there, she was required to produce some breathtaking golf to hang on to overnight leader Phatlum’s coat-tails. It wasn’t until the penultimate hole that Phatlum finally cracked, having looked comfortable since grabbing the halfway lead on Friday. A double-bogey 6 left Hall heading up the last with a three-shot cushion. A three-putt from long range led to her only bogey of the day, but the Bournemouth woman had delivered on her day of destiny.
With dad Wayne on the bag, she closed with a 67 for a 17-under-par 271 total, winning by two shots from Phatlum (70) with Korea’s So Yeon Ryu (70) third on 275. Hall became just the second player after Jeong Jang at Sunningdale in 2005 to card four rounds in the 60s since this event became a major.
Her title triumph was greeted with the same acclaim by the home fans as when Tony Jacklin won the Open Championship here in 1969. Hall is English golf’s first major winner since Justin Rose claimed the US Open in 2013.
“There’s someone special going through a bad time – this is for you grandad,” said an emotional Hall as she celebrated pulling off an historic hat-trick after winning both the Girls’ Amateur and Ladies British Amateur Championships earlier in her career.
On a glorious day to mark the end of an era – this was the final event with Ricoh as title sponsor, having been on board since 2007 – Hall soon gave the home fans something to cheer about as she confidently rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at the opening hole. If she was hoping that might rattle her playing partner, Phatlum proved otherwise when she replied by converting a 25-foot birdie putt at the second before both of them made birdies at the fourth and Phatlum then made a 2 at the short fifth.
By that time, they’d also been handed an unexpected boost in their bid to battle it out for the title when the dangerous pair in the penultimate group slipped up badly at consecutive holes. Ryu stumbled to a triple-bogey 7 at the third before Sung Hyun Park signed for a double-bogey 6 at the next after taking three to get out of a greenside bunker.
All of a sudden, Hall and Phatlum had some decent day light between them and the chasing pack and they extended that advantage with matching birdie-4s at the long sixth. Four-under for the day at that point, Phatlum had increased her overnight cushion to a couple of shots but Hall was like a dog with a bone.
A pushed drive at the eighth left Phatlum having to hack out of a thick clump of grass under some trees; Hall made a great up and down from a bunker to save par at the ninth and it was all tied at the top when she holed a 15-footer for her fourth birdie of the day.
Up ahead, Ryu was making a sensational recovery from her early setback. The two-time major winner birdied three holes in a row from the fifth then added four more in five holes from the 11th to get to 13-under, three behind Hall and Phatlum. That gap became four, though, when that pair both birdied the par-5 15th before Hall went to the top of the leaderboard for the first time all week when she holed a 20-footer for yet another birdie at the 16th and wasn’t going to be denied thereafter.
Matthew, who will love having Hall, a bubbly individual, on her Solheim Cup team at Gleneagles next September, finished joint 42nd on one-over after a closing 76.