It was a roar that reverberated around Royal Lytham St Annes. Everyone in the field knew it could only mean one thing. The home favourite, Georgia Hall, had birdied the first hole to tie for the lead at the Ricoh Women’s British Open. It was just the start that she wanted.
If the pressure of the massive gallery wasn’t enough to contend with, then there was also the pressure of Pornanong Phatlum. Both were looking for their first major championship. Hall may have struck the first blow and in doing so she set a marker for Phatlum. It was a marker that Phatlum would respond to on the following hole. A long birdie putt restored the Thai's slender advantage.
The pressure was eased a little following So Yeon Ryu’s triple bogey on the third hole. That particular hole saw the former Major winner cut adrift by six shots from Phatlum. If a challenge to the final pairing was going to come, it was going to have come from elsewhere unless the Korean could salvage a run of birdies as she did the previous day.
Sung Hyun Park was also making errors. Entering the greenside bunker on the 4th proved to be a nightmare for the Korean. Her first two attempts saw her re-enter the bunker. It was a case of third time lucky as she finally escaped inches from the hole. A tap-in would produce a double bogey. If anything, it proved just how tricky it is to negotiate your way around Royal Lytham St Annes. Errors can be swiftly punished.
Phatlum’s approach to the fourth heaped the pressure on Hall further. She needed to respond in order to keep pace with the leader. She duly did just that. Phatlum responded immediately. A gauntlet was thrown down by the leader. It was almost as if she said, “If you want it, then you’ll have to come and get it.”
The Thai would extend her lead by two shots as she followed with another birdie on the fifth. Georgia Hall’s birdie attempt would just stray to the left. Success and failure could come down to moments like this.
The birdies would be exchanged again on the sixth as the pair drew further away from the rest of the field. This was quickly becoming the battle of the Lytham dunes. Phatlum would drop only her second shot of the tournament on the eighth hole as Hall remained steady. They would make the turn with only one shot separating them.
With both players exchanging blows, it would the 13th where an important move occurred. Hall’s birdie would see her share the lead as Phatlum could only par. With neither player budging an inch, it became clear this would become a fight to the finish.
The final par five awaited and it gave Georgia Hall a wonderful eagle chance. The putt circled the hole. With both players leaving with a birdie each, the tough three final holes would now decide who would win the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
If ever there was a pressure putt then it came 16th. A shout of “Fore” as Georgia Hall’s tee shot headed right. Her second landed on the green but the putt was far from straightforward. It is moments like these that separate major winners from the rest of the field. There was no mistake this time around as Hall took the lead. With two more holes to navigate could Royal Lytham St Annes produce another British victory?
With a one-shot lead heading into the 17th, Hall knew that the pendulum had swung in her favour. The pressure was now on Phatlum to respond. The Thai’s drive entered the right side fairway bunker. Her bunker shot proved to be more difficult than first thought. A slight over-rotation of the club meant that she would escape into the left-hand side rough. She would leave the hole with a double-bogey after her bogey putt strayed to the right. Hall would leave the same hole with a par. The Brit now had a three-shot lead with only one hole to go.
The final hole would prove to be a coronation for Georgia Hall. The packed grandstands at Royal Lytham St Annes witnessed British success the last time it hosted the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2009. Now, they have witnessed it yet again.