SOUTHPORT, England (AP) — English teen Charley Hull walked off Royal Birkdale on Friday with what she called “the best 7 I’ve ever had,” even though it left her 11 shots out of the lead in the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
She followed that double bogey with one of the best rounds she’s ever had to get back into the tournament.
Hull, the 18-year-old who rose to fame last year as the youngest player in the Solheim Cup, made birdie on half of her holes Saturday for a 6-under 66, the best score of the tournament and possibly enough for her to think about winning.
Picking a highlight was easy – a tee shot into the 18th fairway.
The previous two days, Hull had hit her tee shot some 60 yards out-of-bounds to the right. She thought about a 3-wood until her caddie suggested driver and Hull decided to just rip down the left side with a fade. That led to a simple up-and-down for birdie, putting her at 1-under 215.
Mo Martin, the 36-hole leader, already was showing signs of struggling, with bogeys on the opening two holes.
Hull at least believes she has a chance. She even felt that way after she finished her round Friday – a tee shot out-of-bounds, another shot that stayed in bounds by a few inches, a penalty drop, chopping out of hay to the fairway and escaping with a double bogey by making a 7-foot putt.
“I said to my dad last night, `I’m not out of this championship,’” Hull said. “I think someone was 10 shots behind off the lead.”
That would be Paul Lawrie at Carnoustie in 1999, when Hull was 3.
“And that was in the final round, wasn’t it?” she said. “I said to my dad, `I can still win it if I have a good day tomorrow.’ If the wind gets up tomorrow, even par could win it. Just thought I’d go out there and play well. You know, 66 is nice.”
It’s not her lowest round, and in her mind, not her best. Hull shot a 9-under 62 to win her first Ladies European Tour title in March. And she had a 66 in the third round of the LPGA’s first major of the year at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Considering the course – Royal Birkdale, tougher than ever because of such thick grass in the dunes – this won’t be forgotten soon, especially because Hull opened with two bogeys from the rough. She answered with four birdies in five holes, firing at the flag even as her caddie suggested a conservative play.
Hull was going along so well that, faced with an 18-foot birdie on the par-5 17th for her fourth straight birdie, she gunned it 5 feet by the hole and missed the par putt.
Even so, she was in much better shape than when she started. And it was even more meaningful to do it at a Women’s British Open in England, especially having recently signed a sponsorship deal with Ricoh, with the brand on her visor.
“Especially being in front of the home crowd,” he said. “I felt like I had a bit of pressure on me coming into the beginning of this week – with Ricoh, people are expecting a lot of me – and I feel like I kind of stepped up there today and really proved myself.”
It’s not the first time she has done that.
At the Solheim Cup, she beat Paula Creamer, 5 and 4. On Saturday, she played with Kraft Nabisco winner Lexi Thompson and beat her by 12 shots.