England’s Charley Hull made her move early on Saturday as she fired nine birdies in a superb six-under-par 66 for lowest round so far in the 2014 Ricoh Women’s British Open.
Although she bogeyed the first two holes, Charley dug deep and posted nine birdies in the round, recovering from a third bogey on 17 with a chip and putt from four feet in front of the vociferous home galleries around 18 on a warm and becalmed morning at Royal Birkdale Golf Club.
She had struggled on the last hole in the first two rounds, losing two balls out of bounds resulting in scores of six and seven on Thursday and Friday respectively. However the 18-year-old Ladies European Tour winner used a visualisation technique she had practised on several holes at Buckinghamshire Golf Club during the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters last week to narrow her focus. “Today I visualised playing a parkland course with lots of trees down the sides,” she said. “I pretend I’m playing Woburn.”
On her strategy for playing hole 18, she explained: “I was about to pull my 3‑wood out, and then my caddie was like, no, don’t hit 3‑wood. I thought, ‘Well, at the end of the day, that out‑of‑bounds is 60 yards right and I’m ripping it out there.’ And so I thought, aim it to the left and hit a fade. I just faded it down the fairway and just pretend I’m playing a tree‑lined hole instead of out‑of‑bounds.”
She’s now right in the mix on one-under-par and well positioned to make her move in the final round on Sunday, when winds of up to 30 miles per hour have been forecast.
In her post-round press conference, she referenced Paul Lawrie coming from 10 shots behind Jean Van de Velde to win the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie and her own heroics at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco four months ago, when she came from five strokes behind the third round leader Gwladys Nocera with a nine-under-par 62 to tie for the lead before winning her first title in a play-off.
“I can still win it if I have a good day tomorrow. If the wind gets up tomorrow, even par could win it,” Charley said.
There have been only two home winners of the Ricoh Women’s British Open since the championship was designated a major in 2001: Karen Stupples in 2004 and Catriona Matthew in 2009. There have been seven British winners in total with the inclusion of Jenny-Lee Smith (1976), Vivienne Saunders (1977), Janet Melville (1978), Laura Davies (1986) and Alison Nicholas (1987).
If Charley were to win, she would be the youngest ever major champion, aged 18 years, three months and 23 days, six-and-a half months’ younger than Morgan Pressel when she won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship aged 18 years, 10 months and nine days. She would also become only the fifth teenager to win a major, after Pressel, Lexi Thompson, Yani Tseng and Inbee Park and the fifth Briton, following Laura Davies, Catriona Matthew, Alison Nicholas and Karen Stupples.