NORTH CAROLINA: England’s Georgia Hall was born during the 1996 Masters and she produced a Nick Faldo-like performance to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open in Lancashire on Sunday.
Hall was named Georgia in honour of the American state that hosts the Masters, which Faldo won two days after she was born, with a famous final-round 67 that mowed down Greg Norman.
Hall also shot five-under-par 67 on Sunday, playing with the type of relentless consistency for which Faldo was famous and beating Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum by two strokes.
Buoyed up by a supportive overnight text from Tom Lehman, who won the 1996 British Open at Lytham, Hall finished at 17-under 271, becoming the second English player to win the championship after Karen Stupples in 2004.
“I always joked to myself, because I haven’t won a tournament since I turned pro, that the first one I win would be a major. I used to say that and I’ve actually done it now,” Hall told reporters.
“I don’t know what it is, but it is more enjoyable and fun the bigger the competition is.
“I was very confident going into this event from last year (equal third) and I love links golf and I’m playing in England, which is very rare.”
Hall joined Laura Davies, who won four, Alison Nicholas and Stupples as women’s major winners from England.
She became the first English player of either sex to win a major at Royal Lytham since Tony Jacklin won the 1969 British Open.
But it was communication with another Lytham winner, American Lehman, that helped to calm her.
“He texted me last night and said: ‘Go Georgia, hit the fairways and greens and make your fair share of putts, I’m pulling for you.’ It’s great to have him as a friend,” Hall said.
The final round quickly turned into a head-to-head duel between Hall and overnight leader Phatlum, after South Korean Ryu So-yeon triple-bogeyed the third hole.
Hall tied for the lead with a 10-foot birdie at the 13th hole, before she and Phatlum both birdied the par-five 15th to remain locked together.
Hall added another birdie at the par-four 16th to take sole possession of the lead, before going three shots ahead when Phatlum double-bogeyed the 17th after driving into a fairway bunker.
The large lead allowed Hall to enjoy the rousing reception she received on her victory march up to the final hole, where a three-putt bogey was academic.
“I was lucky to hold the golf club,” she said of the nerves that suddenly made their presence felt at the last.
“I was more nervous yesterday than today. I didn’t feel much until the 18th. I played some really good golf and holed a lot of crucial putts.”
Phatlum, seeking to join compatriot Ariya Jutanugarn (U.S. Women’s Open) as a major champion this year, hit a series of loose drives down the stretch.
But a 70 earned her second place on 15 under, with Ryu (70) another two shots back in third.
“She played so amazing today, everything is perfect,” said a gracious Phatlum.
“She is from here and everyone is rooting for her. I’m so happy she won.”