Women’s British Open: Unsung Phatlum the surprise leader

Thai woman posts extraordinary first two rounds, surprising even herself

Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand during the second round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes on August 3rd. Photograph:  Ross Kinnaird/Getty

Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand during the second round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes on August 3rd. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty

 

There may be little point in assessing previous form leading into the Women’s British Open. Pornanong Phatlum’s record in the major read like a golfing horror script before this week. To be precise: cut, cut, cut, 27th, cut, cut and cut. It was little wonder, then, the Thai woman was not fancied by the bookies.

Given that context, Phatlum’s first two rounds have been extraordinary. A second successive 67 has moved her to the summit of the leaderboard at 10-under par. Phatlum is yet to drop a stroke on the treacherous links of Royal Lytham & St Annes. The 28-year-old, one of a wave of prominent Thai women players, seemed rather taken aback by the situation herself.

“Links courses have always been pretty hard for me,” Phatlum said. “Every year I just try to plan to do my best. I didn’t have good times but right now I have a lot more experience and more confidence in my swing.

“I told myself: ‘Wow, I’m playing really good on a links golf course.’ I feel really good, the key is I’m really confident about all of my game right now.”

Big names lurk close enough to Phatlum, who plays on the US-based LPGA Tour, to cause her weekend trouble.

Georgia Hall’s second round of 68 leaves her only one off the lead, alongside Minjee Lee of Australia and Japan’s Mamiko Higa. Ariya Jutanugarn’s 70 means she remains in touch at minus three. Catriona Matthew, who won here in 2009, has matched the world number one’s midway aggregate. “I feel like I’m playing pretty well,” she said. “I’ve been struggling to make a few cuts, so it’s nice to make the cut and now I can just relax and enjoy the weekend.”

Hall’s father, Wayne, expressed his pride at continuing with caddie duties for the 22-year-old’s home major. “I love it, absolutely love it,” he said. “I don’t do many now because I’m not into travelling very much but we have an agreement I do the British ones and it works out well.

“I just love walking around with her. It doesn’t matter what she scores. What she scores, she scores. I’m just happy being together with her. We’ve been together on golf courses since she was seven. It’s been a long journey and to see her grow as a golfer has been incredible. All that hard work is paying off for her.”

Hall has a maiden major title on her mind. “I’ve worked towards this week for the past couple of months,” she admitted. “That preparation has really helped me.”

Lydia Ko’s 71 moved her to five under, with the 21-year-old later pointing towards the mental challenges demanded by this event. “I think with any major championship you need to be super patient, more patient than any other tournament.

“It’s a tough golf course here. I said that the first few holes going out and the holes coming in are really tough. So you just kind of have to focus the whole way around. And sometimes making those pars, two-putting for par, is really not the end of the world.

“When you’re being patient and you’re confident, you can give yourself more opportunities. I’ve been trying to do that and hopefully I’ll be even more patient over this weekend.”

Charley Hull was among those to depart at the halfway stage. Her second round of 78 meant a total of plus five. Cheyenne Woods and Laura Davies suffered the same fate. Brooke Henderson’s hole in one was the second at the 9th in as many days.

It was announced on Friday that next year’s Women’s British Open will take place at Woburn. Royal Troon will take on hosting duties for the first time in 2020. – Guardian

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