Phatlum Sings Her Way to 54-Hole Lead at Lytham
LYTHAM ST ANNES, England – When things get tough, Pornanong Phatlum sings. Saturday, as the first-time leader of a major championship, Phatlum did plenty of singing.
The 28-year-old from Thailand slept on the 36-hole lead and will take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes. She carded a 3-under par, 69 on moving day to maintain her lead ahead of playing partner, Georgia Hall, who also posted a 69. Phatlum leads at 13-under par, one ahead of Hull who birdied the last to close within one. So Yeon Ryu sits two-back at 11-under par.
“I'm very happy now and I played solid round today,” Phatlum said. “I got nervous when I practiced on the course, and just try to calm down and just try to play my game.”
Both Hall and Phatlum are chasing history on Sunday. Phatlum looks to become the second player from Thailand to win a major championship on the LPGA Tour. Ariya Jutanugarn was the first to accomplish the feat in 2016. Hall, a 2018 rookie on the LPGA Tour, has an opportunity to become the first Englishwoman since Karen Stupples to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open. That was in 2004. But Hall has the experience that Phatlum doesn’t. She played in the final group on Sunday at last year’s Championship at Kingsbarns where she finished T3.
“I have one day left and I’m counting down the days a little bit because four days is a long time,” Hall conceded after her round. “I think I’ll be a bit more relaxed. There was some tricky pin positions today and they will probably put even harder ones out tomorrow.”
While Hall will have her experience to lean on, Phatlum will have her songs. While she doesn’t sing aloud, she’ll be singing her favorite Thai songs in her head in hopes they’ll carry her to her first victory on the LPGA Tour.
The par 3, 1st hole at Royal Lytham & St Annes was lined from tee to green with fans cheering for one of their own, Georgia Hall.
“Get it close, get it close, get it close,” a member of the gallery was heard pleading as Hall chipped up close enough to save par at the opening hole. All day they were pulling for the Englishwoman, who grew up a five-hour drive south of Lytham in Bournemouth.
And she had them cheering all the way to the last, where she drained a putt for birdie at the par 4, 18th hole to shoot 69 and sit one-back of the lead heading into Sunday.
“It was so nice to see so many people supporting me and just hundreds and hundreds of people cheering my name,” Hall said after her round. “It was so nice to have them backing me.”
Saturday, Hall struggled off the tee, missing the green at the first and finding a fairway bunker at the second, but her putter was spot on. She drained critical putts at the first two holes to save par and those par saves turned to birdie opportunities. Hall drained long putts for birdie at the third and sixth holes to keep pace with her playing partner, Pornanong Phatlum, who was pouring in birdies of her own. She made another critical par save at the par 5, 7th after nearly tangling with a fairway bunker that left her standing with one foot in the sand and another outside. But her putter grew cold as she made the turn, missing back-to-back birdie opportunities to remain two-strokes back of Phatlum. Her putter was unable to save her at the par 4, 13th hole where she found one of the numerous pot bunkers off the tee and her bogey-free streak came to an end after 48 holes.
She’ll look to break an unlucky run for the English, who haven’t won the Ricoh Women’s British Open since Karen Stupples’ victory at Sunningdale in 2004.
“Hopefully I can give them something to cheer about tomorrow,” said Hall.
So Yeon, So Positive
It would be easy for So Yeon Ryu to be negative, but with a team of supporters around her, she’s learned to put the toughest situations into perspective.
For the second consecutive major championship, Ryu is in position to win. She fired a 5-under par, 67 on Saturday to match the low round of the day. The two-time major champion sits two-back of the lead heading into Sunday’s round. Ahead of her on the leaderboard are two players looking to win for the very first time on Tour, giving the six-time LPGA Tour winner an edge coming into Sunday.
In June at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Ryu lost in a playoff to Sung Hyun Park. While she could be disappointed with her performance, instead she looked to the positive. Thanks to her work with her psychologist and instructor, Cameron McCormick, she’s learned to look at what can be improved, rather than what went wrong.
“He just mentioned about the shots I had that are really, really great,” Ryu said about her conversation with McCormick after her loss at Kemper Lakes. “He also said he was really proud of myself, how I handled all the situation.”
Now, Ryu is focused on the future and has her eyes set on the Career Grand Slam. It’s a goal she’s been chasing since she won her second major championship in 2017 at the ANA Inspiration. She also won the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open. With a victory on Sunday, she would not only pick up the third leg of the Career Grand Slam, but could also become No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings. With a win or second place finish, depending on how other players finish, Ryu could return to the top spot, which she held in 2017.
“I never looked back, I just keep focused on what I’m going to have. I think that kind of attitude was really, really great,” Ryu Said. “If I can have this attitude tomorrow, I can play good.”