LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Charley Hull would like nothing better than to make her major championship breakthrough at Royal Lytham & St. Annes this week.
She’s back home in England for the Ricoh Women’s British Open, ready to show she’s maturing on and off the course, that she is driven to take her game to another level.
“I feel like my game is coming into shape, how I want it to be,” Hull said. “I practiced quite hard over the winter, and I've been practicing hard this year as well. I just feel really confident in my game.”
Laura Davies would relish seeing Hull succeed her as a dominant Englishwoman in the game. Davies has been waiting for Hull to take off since Hull broke through to win her first LPGA title at the CME Group Tour Championship at the end of 2016.
“She’s definitely got the game for it,” Davies said. “When she won the Tour Championship, I thought that's it: Charley is going to go mad next year.
“I thought last year would have been a really good year for her. She's solid. She's always out there. She doesn't miss many cuts.”
Hull didn’t take flight the way Davies expected last year, but she looks poised for something big this year. She’s the only player with top-10 finishes in all three majors this season. She tied for sixth at the ANA Inspiration, also tied for sixth at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and tied for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Still just 22, Hull is the third highest ranked European in the world (No. 27).
“Obviously, I want to win a major,” Hull said. “My head is pretty focused at the moment. I've got good people around me that are making me concentrate, and I think that’s good.”
While Hull is colorfully fun loving, quirky in an endearing way, her focus can be an issue. The talent’s there, but there have been questions about whether she is driven enough to challenge for the world’s most important titles and awards.
Hull is looking to prove she is with her commitment this season. She feels as if she’s coming into her own.
“Yeah, maturing,” she said. “I just feel like I'm more patient on the golf course. I just take a bit more time reading my putts, and just concentrating. I just feel really focused.”
Davies roots for Hull.
“What's it going to take to get her to that next level of consistently winning, like Ariya Jutanugarn?” Davies said. “I think Charley has got that sort of game, where she could do that. Now, she needs to find that magic ingredient. I don't know what it is, but obviously she's working very hard.”
The proper focus, Hull believes, may be that magic ingredient.
“Kind of a mental thing,” Hull said. “I think coming top 10 in the majors so far this year gives you a bit of an insight. Now, I just need to finish.
“If you look back to the Women’s PGA Championship, I was really pushing it back, and really going for it. I was within one or two of the lead with a few holes to go, and I made two stupid breakers coming in. ... I just need to think, in my head, every little shot counts.”
Hull is a power player, the 18th longest player on tour in average driving distance this season. She always hits a lot of greens in regulation. She’s fifth in GIRs this year. Her putting, what has most held her back, is improving; she’s fifth in putts per GIR.
Two years ago, Hull found herself in the spotlight with the Women’s British Open at Woburn Golf and Country Club, her home course. She was surprised how much pressure she felt and ended up tying for 17th. She believes dealing with that will help her this week.
“I just remember the first tee shot,” Hull said. “I'm never nervous, but my legs were shaking and everything, because you've got everyone there that you know, and everyone thinks because you play that golf course you're going to know it and you should do well.
“It taught me how to deal with pressure in different ways, like expectations from people and stuff.”
Hull was only 9 when she qualified to play in the Women’s British Open pro-am at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. She played with Morgan Pressel. Hull mentioned to media at the Ladies Scottish Open last week that she has relearned to enjoy links golf.
“I've always struggled on links golf ever since I was a kid,” she said in Scotland. “To be honest, when I was a kid, I never enjoyed it, but as I've played on the LPGA, I’ve come back and I’ve missed it. I wish we could play more, because it's fun. I think I've grown up and I've got more shots now.”
Hull will be looking to rally all her new strengths in trying to make a major breakthrough this week.