Carnoustie is set to reveal its “Carnasty” side this weekend and for Georgia Hall it is a case of the uglier the better.
This is the first time the Englishwoman has led the Women’s Open since her Lytham glory three years ago and, in terms of a second major title, the forecast has never been brighter for the 25-year-old.
A 69 took Hall to seven-under and into a 36-hole tie with American Mina Harigae. The only sour point of a fine morning’s work – in which this notorious links was once again minus its main ally, wind – was a double-bogey six on the 15th. However, Hall was not about to allow that to ruin a day otherwise featuring six birdies, 10 pars and a bogey. She knows what is coming from the weather Gods and sounds thankful of their potential patronage.
“I’d say it was about time,” Hall said, after an opening two rounds of unfamiliar North Sea generosity. “People want to see proper links golf – it makes it much more interesting. Obviously, it makes it a lot harder but I think it will be a true test and I’ll be excited.”
Could it give her an advantage? “ I’d like to think so,” Hall, the world No 43, replied. “The Americans and other players are all great golfers but maybe I’d be a little more used to it if it did get rough. I’ve just got to control my ball-flight. Let’s just say, I’m very happy with my position. If I’m different from 2018, it’s that I’d like to say that I can handle the pressure better. In my head, I’m more stable.”
Dame Laura Davies is optimistic for her young countrywoman. At 57, the 1986 champion has rather heroically made her first Women’s Open cut in four years and on level par – after a 70 – is dreaming of a scenario that sees “us early starters getting through the third round unscathed, before the heavens open for the leaders”.
But if that does not come to pass, she is confident Hall has the wherewithal to become Britain’s first multiple winner of the Women’s Open. “The only course that is bunkered as well as this is Lytham and where did Georgia win?” Davies said. “The conditions will suit her and if she keeps putting well then she could have a fantastic weekend.”
The quality is stacked in beneath Hall and Harigae, the world No 65 who shot a 67. In the group in tie for third, a shot behind, stands Korean Sei Young Kim and another American in Lizette Salas, while on five-under comes the US Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso and former world No 1 Lexi Thompson. Hall might look at the caddie Thompson is employing and see some similarities in her own novel choice of bagman at Lytham.
Hall’s father, Wayne, was called up three years ago and this week Thompson came to Scotland without a regular looper. Thompson phoned the club and was advised that member Paul Drummond would be available. Drummond, 31, has done such a fine job over the first 36 holes that it is even being considered that Thompson may offer the plus-2 handicapper the role on a full-time basis.
Thompson’s most recent caddie, Jack Fulghum, was forced to retire after 16 holes of the Olympic tournament in Tokyo two weeks ago because of the oppressive heat. However, the pair had agreed to split anyway, after suffering an emotional experience at the US Women’s Open in June, where Thompson led by five in the final round but ended up losing.
If Drummond is to join the Tour, he might have to turn his back on the Carnoustie car sales business that he runs with his mother and father. From the Lexus to the Lexi?
A 10 percent cut of the $870,000 first prize might prove persuasive, especially as the language barrier has not yet proved an issue. “Paul has been speaking very slowly to me,” Thompson said, with a laugh. “I’ve been fully trusting him on his numbers and whether to hit it left or right of the pin – he has been spot on.”
For his part, Drummond is now over the shock. “I informed the caddy master here that I was prepared to take a bag for the week if needed, but I certainly never expected it to be that of Lexi Thompson,” Drummond said.
“I’ve probably helped the most on the greens as they take a bit of getting used to here and I know them like the back of my hand. Lexi’s pretty good fun. Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing.”