Charley Hull Leads Home Favourites Dreaming of Success at British Open
It’s been eight years since Catriona Matthew won the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, remarkably coming just 11 weeks after giving birth to her second daughter. That post-natal defying victory remains the most recent major championship title by a player from the British Isles, with only Suzann Pettersen’s success at The Evian in 2013 offering solace for Europe.
Home supremacy has been rare in this event since it became an LPGA major in 2001 – Karen Stupples’ memorable triumph at Sunningdale aside - but there are hopes for a few players this week at Kingsbarns, particularly with the inspiring carrot of the Solheim Cup just a fortnight away.
European captain, Annika Sorenstam will complete her team with four picks on Sunday evening after the final qualifying points have been tallied up.
For Charley Hull, the UK’s top ranked female golfer at 27th in the world, the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of recent notable recent English successes across the sporting spectrum – including the Women’s Rugby and Cricket World Cups – is one to be grasped at.
The 21-year-old said: “For me to win this week, it would be great. Obviously winning my home event, the British Open. It would be awesome to join in with what everyone else are doing in sport. It would be cool.”
Sitting 50th on the LPGA Tour’s money list in 2017, Hull has recorded a pair of top ten finishes this year, but is feeling comfortable on the east of Scotland with the spectacular Kyle Philips design fitting her eye perfectly over several practice rounds in the past couple of weeks, describing the layout as being “one of my favourite golf courses now.” High praise, indeed.
“I think it's a really fair links golf course. You hit a good shot, you're going to get rewarded. And I kind of like the greens. And you're near St. Andrews, as well. You just feel like you're at the Home of Golf,” the Solheim Cup player added.
The likes of Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Melissa Reid, and Georgia Hall – who finished in a tie for ninth at last week’s Ladies Scottish Open – will be hoping to have a strong showing in this year’s fourth major, but most headlines on Monday were about a player on the other end of the spectrum, Dame Laura Davies, who came through qualifying to secure her place in her 37th Women’s British Open.
That was a rare thing for the World Golf Hall of Fame member, but it was a process she had no hesitation about putting herself through for this championship. “I'll try and qualify for this tournament until I can't do a good job and represent myself well. It's my favourite tournament of the year, and I want to play in it as many times as I can.”
Now that she’s in the field, is the 53-year-old dreaming of rolling back the years in Scotland? Maybe producing a throwback performance reminiscent of Tom Watson’s dramatic Open Championship runner-up at Turnberry weeks before his 60th birthday, but Davies concedes that such a story is unlikely to happen considering her form in recent years.
“It (lifting the title again) would be ridiculous,” said the 1986 champion. “I haven't had a top-ten since I finished fourth in Japan three years ago. So, you know, it's two years since I've had a top-ten, so winning it's not really -- I'm not thinking about that side of it. But obviously if something crazy happened, like Tom Watson nearly won it a few years back. I think links golf is a great leveller. So, if ever you're going to have a chance, this would be the sort of course.”
However, the always candid four-time major winner believes that her game is still there to have a good week, particularly at a venue that should suit her prodigious ability of the tee. “The results say that I'm going to do rubbish, so that's -- but I know, myself and my caddie knows, how well we're playing,” she added. “I fully expect to have a half-decent week, I really do, because I'm driving it so well and I think if you drive it well around here, I think you can do well.”
It would be quite a story, as would a second title for Britain’s most recent champion, Catriona Matthew, whose inspiration for the days ahead is generated just by playing in this championship, not to mention the possibility of forcing the hand of Annika Sorenstam to grant the 47-year-old Scot with a captain’s pick and with it a tenth appearance for Europe in the Solheim Cup.
“Obviously, I'd love to have a good week and try and play my way into the team. Certainly, it's in the back of my mind,” revealed the 2009 winner. “You don't want to -- at the end of the day, if I can go out and play good golf, that will take care of itself. It's there but I'm not trying to think about it too much.”
The North Berwick-native will be in Iowa regardless of what happens in Fife, as she was appointed one of the legendary Swede’s vice captains. However, the thought of wearing two hats for the game’s biggest showpiece event is an appealing one. “When she (Annika) first asked me, she said, "You know, what you want to play as well?" And I said yeah, and she was quite happy with having a playing vice-captain.”
For home players both young and old, the British Open holds a special kind of magic, more so at a venue of the quality of Kingsbarns just seven miles from St. Andrews. This small corner of Fife is the most historic of destinations in the game, and a UK victory would be fittingly monumental.
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