A Ladies European Masters played out under sultry, exhausting conditions yielded victory on Sunday to a final day charge from seven-time Major winner, Australian Karrie Webb, whose final round 65 secured victory by a single shot from day 1 joint-leader, Ashleigh Simon.
Meanwhile, there was combined disappointment and encouragement for English youth hope Charley Hull, whose second day round of 66 had appeared to put her in the mix along with second day group member Webb, before a challenging final day +2 saw her slip to a 10th placed finish. This may have been less than the 17-year-old may have deserved as a fearless opening two rounds could just have propelled her into the attentions of European Solheim Cup captain Liselotte Neumann.
Media attention in the build up may have been focussed on the emergence of Cheyenne Woods, famed nephew of men’s world number 1 Tiger, in her first year on the professional tour, but the on-course stories were being written elsewhere with Simon, Caroline Masson and Marion Ricordeau thriving in low scoring conditions and seeming well-set for victory, before Webb’s final round assault.
Played out on a Buckinghamshire Golf Club course bathed in heatwave sunshine, the tournament looked low scoring from day 1, the greens playing quickly and offering encouragement to players at almost every one of the 18 holes, the cut registering at a 144 stroke par at the end of the second day.
With Webb and Masson having made the early ground on day 1, each player coming in at 9 under, day 2 saw charges coming from across the field, including from 26-year old French rising star Marion Ricordeau whose -5 in each of the first two rounds was almost wiped out by a horrible, challenging +6 final round, and from English starlet Hull who had certainly seemed well-set, leading eventual winner Webb by a shot when their group signed off at the end of the second day.
With the field cut, nerves and high scores seemed to afflict the vast majority of the remaining competitors, Karrie Webb’s blistering 65 seeing her launch to the head of the scoreboard with her lowest round of the tournament. Having signed off a flat 200 total, the Australian was forced to endure an agonising wait to see if either Simon or Masson could birdie the Par 3 18th and force the play off; ultimately the South African Simon could only manage a level par, with Masson bogeying to hand the trophy to Webb.
Elsewhere in the field, English legend Laura Davies endured a difficult tournament coming in 3 under par, a result which left her some way short of the top-3 finish necessary to keep her in the reckoning for automatic qualification for the Solheim Cup, meaning she will now have to rely on a captain’s selection if she is to avoid missing the showdown with Meg Mallon’s US team for the first time in the tournament’s 23-year history.
Attention now turns to the British Open at St Andrews this week and then to the Solheim Cup; the availability of up to 80 Solheim Cup qualification points for a European winner of the Open offering massive incentive to the likes of Hull, Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and France’s Gladwys Nocera, currently sitting 9th, 10th and 5th respectively in the points standings.
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