WOBURN - Three years ago, Charley Hull palpably felt the pressure of expectation when the Women's British Open was last played on the Marquess Course at Woburn Golf Club. Aged just 20, she was England's emerging star player and a Woburn Golf Club member, and despite all the extra attention she performed creditably to end that week in a tie for 17th.
This year, however, is a very different story. Though Hull is still one of the best players in the game, she shares the media limelight on home soil with her compatriots Georgia Hall, who won last year's Women's British Open at Royal Lytham, and Bronte Law, who is the highest-ranked player of the three - at No. 22 in the Rolex Rankings.
"The pressure's not on me this year," Hull told LPGA.com after making a superb start to the week with a five-under-par 67 in the opening round in front of huge galleries at Woburn Golf Club. "In 2016, it was different but now that Georgia is defending this year, it takes the pressure away from me, which is nice. I feel it (pressure) a little bit but I'm just going out there and having fun. It would be great to win on my home turf, but I'm just going to go out there and enjoy it, not think too far ahead. As long as I enjoy being out there on the golf course, that's all that matters to me. I feel like I've been playing well all year, I've just struggled to trust myself sometimes. Today I just went out there and trusted myself, and I feel like I'm in a good mindset."
Competing this week in her eighth Women's British Open, Hull pocketed five birdies in a bogey-free display, with four of them coming on the back nine. She finished in style by sparking loud roars from her loyal supporters when she drained a curling 30-footer for birdie on the 18th green.
"Her short game was really, really tidy. She never really hit any bad shots and anything which wasn't quite on line she got up and down," her caddie, Joe Miller, told LPGA.com. "She got it close with the chipping, which is always important. She didn't leave herself a lot to do. She's been working really, really hard on short game, more than anything else. She's always been able to flush it. Now she's putting all them pieces together, the pieces of the jigsaw."
Miller, who has been on Hull's bag since last year's Evian Championship, has no doubt that if there is any pressure of expectation for his player she would hungrily embrace it.
"I don't think she feels pressure any more than anybody else," he said. "She sort of relishes it now. She likes the idea of competing and she wants to beat the best players in the world. So you're going to have to learn to accept a little bit of pressure, aren't you? She's a real pleasure to caddie for. She doesn't really get hard on herself, she takes it one shot at a time and she's pretty good with me if we make a mistake. It doesn't go on and on and on. Because mistakes are going to happen, it's part of golf. You can't hit every shot perfect, you can't make every decision absolutely correct. So she takes it in her stride and generally speaking she's got the skill, the knowledge and know-how to get out of it as well. It's nice when you've got a player who can recover a mistake. That's very good."
Miller has been impressed by how well Hull has balanced all the extra demands she has faced since returning to her homeland with the need to enjoy as much downtime as possible away from the golf course.
"There's definitely more demands for her here than normal," said Miller. "In America she obviously doesn't get the same level of media coverage as some of the Asians and the top Americans but here she has managed herself very well. She's made herself available without overdoing it. She's got herself off home but she's made herself available when she needed to for necessary photo shoots and media, and I haven't seen her refuse a signature all week for the little kids. She never does. She never walks off fairways to avoid people for signatures. She will just take the normal route and I've got a lot of admiration for her for that."
Even though Hull has her England home in Kettering, Nottinghamshire - just 40 miles away from Woburn up the M1 motorway - she and her caddie decided to stay close to the course for this week.
"Charley is only 40 minutes (away) but it just wasn't worth the risk," said Miller. "We weren't about to put ourselves in a pickle on the M1. It wasn't going to happen. I'd have got a tent if we had to! We weren't staying too far away!"
For Hull, that has also given her the opportunity to relax with her fiance, mixed martial arts super-welterweight champion Ozzie Smith, during the evenings in Woburn at one of the village's restaurant or pubs.
"It's been great, just chilling with my fiance and having fun," said Hull, whose sole LPGA Tour victory came at the 2016 CME Group Tour Championship. "It definitely feels great to have so many family and friends here in Woburn supporting me. I feel very much at home at Woburn."