England’s Georgia Hall birdied the last hole under pressure at Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club on Saturday evening and heads into the final round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open just one stroke behind Pornanong Phatlum from Thailand.
Both players produced third rounds of 69 in calm and sunny conditions to finish on 13 and 12-under-par respectively after 54 holes and will play together for a second consecutive day in the final pairing on Sunday.
Hall, who played with the eventual winner In-Kyung Kim in the final group last year at Kingsbarns, where she tied for third, will draw on that experience and home advantage on Sunday.
She said: “I’m really excited to go out in the last group again and see what happens. I can’t believe how many people were out there today supporting me, it felt like hundreds and hundreds of people, cheering my name and wanting me to do well.”
Hall saved her best for last when she played an aggressive five-iron from the first cut on the left side of the fairway up beyond the flag on 18, the ball rolling 10 feet past the pin before she rolled in the putt in front of a delighted gallery.
“It was a tough pin, 44 yards on and quite a long putt,” said the 2017 LET Player of the Year. “My score card looks steady today, but it was actually quite a battle. It was quite tough today, my rhythm was off and I had to make some good putts to make up for it, and luckily I did. It was fantastic today, really good.”
Hall started the day at nine-under and briefly moved into a four-way tie for the lead on 11-under-par after birdies on the third and sixth holes.
Mamika Higo of Japan then took the advantage with a tap-in birdie on the seventh hole and was joined on 12-under by Phatlum, who birdied the sixth hole.
Phatlum birdied the eighth and 11th moving to 14-under-par. However, the Thai player found a bunker right off the tee on the short 12th and dropped her first shot in 48 holes on the par-3.
Hall, who let a birdie chance slip, then found the bunker with her second shot on the par-4 13th and dropped her first shot at her 49th hole.
However, she made a sand save on 14 and then birdied 15 and 16, before making a second bogey on 17, as Pornanong made a run of stress-free pars.
Hall’s reaction to dropping a shot was exemplary and the 22-year-old from Bournemouth is now within touching distance of becoming the third British winner of the Ricoh Women’s British Open since the championship became a Major, in 2001, following on from Karen Stupples at Sunningdale in 2004 and Catriona Matthew at Royal Lytham in 2009.
She will have a long wait until her 2.30pm tee time on Sunday and said that she would relax this evening and try to wake up late. She had to wait on Saturday morning, which she didn’t like.
“I don’t think about too much in the future. I think just do every hole as it comes and 18 holes is a lot and anything can happen on that golf course. I’m just going to go out there and play every shot as it comes and just kind of try and stay to myself and not look at what’s going on too much,” she said.
While Phatlum is a 16-time winner, who has two titles on the Ladies European Tour, Hall has won only two since turning professional, on the Australian ALPG and the LET Access Series, but she will be able to draw on the support of her family and friends around her.
For the second consecutive year, her father, Wayne, is her caddie and mother, Samantha, is walking outside the ropes, as is boyfriend Harry.
More than 41,500 people have attended the championship so far and with more fair weather set for Sunday and an English player in genuine contention, the final round is set to be a thriller.
All the action tees off on Sunday when the leading amateur, Atthaya Thitikul from Thailand, starts at 8.55am.