England’s Charley Hull got 2019 off to a flying start with a wire-to-wire victory in the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open, her second Ladies European Tour trophy.
In warm and windy conditions at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, Hull fired rounds of 67, 72 and 69 for a tournament score of 8-under par, one shot ahead of Marianne Skarpnord.
The Norwegian had set the clubhouse target at 7-under, leaving Hull under pressure to make par on the last to seal the victory - a challenge that the 22-year-old rose to in spectacular style. Hull hit her approach shot long of the green and left herself with a downhill lie in the bunker. Playing to a tight flag on a green surrounded by water, most of us would have been happy just to keep the ball on the green, but Hull played the shot perfectly, and for a moment it looked as though there was a chance she'd holed it. She delicately played the shot to a few feet and confidently holed the putt for the win as her new fiancé, Ozzie Smith, watched on. Smith proposed with a diamond ring at Christmas and now the pair have another reason to celebrate, with the prospect of another season of stunning success ahead, including a potential fourth Solheim Cup appearance in Scotland in September.
“I’ve practised really, really hard over the winter and it feels great to win back on the LET, especially since I had my first pro win in Morocco five years ago,” said Hull, the Rookie of the Year in 2013, who went on to win the Order of Merit in 2014.
“Hopefully I can get a few more wins this year and I’ve been practising really hard so it shows that my hard work is paying off.”
Hull started the final round with a one-shot lead, which she extended to two after a birdie at the second. That lead was short-lived though. Hull ran into trouble to the right of the third green and holed a solid eight-footer to escape with a bogey.
She sunk another solid eight-footer, this time for birdie, on the sixth green but then dropped a shot on hole 10. An eagle on the par-5 11th, where she played her 6-iron to 15 feet, put her two clear of Skarpnord. She then holed another birdie putt from 10 feet on the 14th to reach 8-under and held firm in the breeze from there.
“I’m very happy with my round. I left a lot of putts out there today, but it’s hard to putt when it’s windy like this,” she said.
Hull received the iconic gazelle trophy from golfing legend and Saadiyat Beach course designer, Gary Player, whom she said she said she had looked up to her entire career.
Skarpnord, who last won on the LET in 2013, said that her 68 for solo second was “a big step in the right direction.”
“Every time I was in contention last year, top three, five, ten, I shot over par on the last round. I kind of had a goal today that I was going to shoot under par and if I did that, then I’d be very happy,” she said.
Another strong Solheim Cup prospect, Caroline Hedwall, from Sweden, came through the pack with a 67 to share third place with Dutchwoman Anne Van Dam (68), Dane Nicole Broch Larsen (71), Spain’s Luna Sobron (72) and England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff (73).
But the round of the day belonged to the 2017 champion, Aditi Ashok, who signed off with a 66 to finish in tied eighth position with Jenny Haglund and Nanna Koerstz Madsen on two-under.