Women's Scottish Open: Charley Hull feeling 'really good' about title chance

They say Charley Hull’s game isn’t suited for links golf and her record backs that up. The English player doesn’t have a top-20 finish to her name in the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open and has yet to muster a top-10 effort in the AIG Women’s Open.

Charley Hull in action during the third round of Trust Golf Women's Scottish Open at Dumbarnie Links. Picture: Tristan Jones
Charley Hull in action during the third round of Trust Golf Women's Scottish Open at Dumbarnie Links. Picture: Tristan Jones

She liked the look of Dumbarnie Links from the off, though, in this week’s edition of the former and it could well be the opportunity for Hill to prove that it’s not only on tree-lined courses that she can turn talent into title triumphs.

After a strange old day on the Fife coast, where a wind gusting up to 25mph provided a tough challenge on this Clive Clark-designed course, Hull shares the 54-hole lead with Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn and American Ryann O’Toole on nine-under.

On a tightly-packed leaderboard, Jutanugarn’s compatriot, Atthaya Thitikul, and South African Ashleigh Buhai are both one shot back, with Swede Anna Nordqvist, Kiwi Lydia Ko and Scot Kelsey MacDonald among the others still in contention in the £1.1 million event.

Kelsey MacDonald waves to the crowd at Dumbarnie Links as she maintained her strong display on home soil. Picture: Tristan Jones

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Having already landed this title at Gullane in 2018 and also having two major titles under her belt, Jutanugarn still looks as though she is the player to beat despite relinquishing a three-shot halfway lead, but Hull is licking her lips about what lies ahead.“I've been feeling confident the last six weeks, pretty much since after the US Open,” said the 25-year-old, who after becoming the event’s youngest-ever player in 2013, is gearing up for a fifth Solheim Cup appearance in Ohio next month . “I feel good. I feel really good.”

Hull, a four-time winner as a professional, had birdied the fourth, seventh, 12th and 15th in the final group alongside Jutanugarn and Dane Emily Kristine Pedersen before dropping her only shot of the day at the par-3 16th in a round of 69.

“My golf game this year has probably been the best it’s ever been, having put so much hard work into it in the winter,” she added. “I've been struggling mentally on and off the golf course, but the last few weeks I've been feeling a lot better, so it comes into my golf.”

The secret of playing well here so far has been thinking about anything but golf. “I've got a very addictive personality, and it can get in the way of a lot of stuff,” said Hull.

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Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn, the 2018 winner, shares the lead at Dumbarnie Links. Picture: Tristan Jones

“Sometimes I get too obsessed with golf, but it's coming to the point now where I'm playing well and I don't even know how many birdies I made or remember shots because my brain is not thinking too much.”

Jutanugarn, who finished bogey-bogey for a 72, reckoned it had been the opposite for her. “I had a pretty tough day today,” said the 12-time LPGA Tour winner as she reflected on an effort that included a double-bogey 6 at the 10th after a spot of bunker trouble.

“I was thinking about the outcome so much, I don't want to miss and make putts, and that's why I end up today not playing so well. You know, it's just not one of my good days, but I still have so much positive to go on.”

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O’Toole, a 34-year-old Californian, set up a chance to land a maiden LPGA Tour win in her tenth season on the circuit on the back of a 68 that was lit up by an eagle-3 from six feet at the 15th, while Buhei made her move with a best-of-the day 67 that contained six sparkling birdies.

It’s been a brilliant week so far for MacDonald, who has taken up the mantle of giving the home fans something to cheer about since Michele Thomson, who had led after a course-record 65 on Thursday, slipped back.

A bogey-bogey finish was a tad disappointing at the end of another splendid day’s work, but the 30-year-old from Nairn has oozed confidence to this point and one big final push should get her into next week’s AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie as well.

Five spots in the season’s final major are up for grabs in this event and, sitting in a tie for seventh behind players who are all exempt, MacDonald is currently in pole position in that sideshow.

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“I am excited for tomorrow,” said the former Scottish Women’s champion after signing for a level-par 72 to add to sit in a tie for seventh on five-under in a group that also includes Ko. “I would have taken level par at the start of the day, but I'm obviously gutted with my finish.

“To finish so poorly like that is disappointing. But it will be good to go out a wee bit earlier tomorrow and try to post a low number.”

MacDonald, one of the quicker players in the women’s game, reckoned a delay on the tee had contributed to her dropped shot at the 17th, a short par 4 that, along with the third and 11th, has a risk-and-reward element from the tee.

“We had been waiting all day and I had been wanting to hit driver on 17, and we had been waiting all day and decided to hit an iron,” she said. “It's actually a really difficult shot from the left side downwind.

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“Went long. Had a really awkward lie. So I just had to kind of nudge something out. I actually used my putter, didn't get it up-and-down from there. I wasn't too disappointed with that bogey. But then on 18, after having a wedge in my hand, to come up short, I feel really gutted.

“It was tough out there, though. It was gusty in places. Some holes you had more a downwind than a crosswind, and I think we definitely got caught out with some club selections. But I think everyone would have today.”

In the battle to win the new Jock MacVicar Trophy as leading Scot, MacDonald leads both Thomson and Carly Booth by 10 shots after they carded matching 76s in the penultimate circuit.

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