NAPLES, Fla. – Charley Hull knows what it’s like to be bitten by a snake in the middle of a round.
Mo Martin didn’t want to find out.
Hull and Martin played their way around some wriggling, slithering trouble Thursday to get in the early hunt at the CME Group Tour Championship.
Hull opened with a 5-under-par 67 and sits tied with So Yeon Ryu, one shot behind Shanshan Feng at the LPGA’s season-ending event. Martin is in a pack of eight players who are two shots back.
The round got more exciting than Hull or Martin would have preferred in a greenside bunker at the fifth hole. Martin stepped into the bunker with a steep face to hit a shot. As she was getting ready to get into her stance, with her back side almost against the face, she noticed something disturbing wrapped into the riveting atop the bunker.
“I see it, peripherally, and I’m thinking it’s a branch, but then I’m like, 'That’s a funny place for a branch,’ and then I get closer, and I’m like, 'That is not a branch,’” Martin said.
A rules official tried to scare the snake away, but it wasn’t going budge.
“The rules official was kind of poking and prodding at it, and it was getting more and more angry, and I wanted to get less and less near it,” Martin said.
Hull observed the danger knowingly. She said she was bitten in the leg by a snake in the middle of a club championship round at Wentworth in her native England when she was 12 or 13. She said she played on without stopping, finishing up about six holes after she was bitten.
“I won, actually,” Hull said matter of factly.
Martin got a free drop after the snake encounter, about 5 feet from away from her original lie, but her drop plugged in the soft sand. She couldn’t get up and down and made her only bogey of the round.
“I had a hot start and hot finish and I played beautifully,” Martin said.
It’s a special week for Martin, 34. She has an endorsement deal with CME, and she’s playing a home game this week. The Californian moved to Naples four years ago.
“I have a huge contingent of family and friends and new fans following,” Martin said. “It's awesome to have the support and hear the yells from the gallery.”
Hull, 20, is looking to finish what’s been a long year with strong final effort. She’s looking for her first LPGA title.
“I feel like I’ve had a good year, came in second in a major [ANA Inspiration] and I’ve got a few top 10s,” Hull said. “I just want to get a win in.”