LPGA teen phenom Lydia Ko is defending her championship at the New Zealand Women’s Open. LET teen phenom and 2013 Rookie of the Year, Charley Hull, is on the prowl for her first pro win. Ko and Hull are paired for the first and second rounds of the LET-ALPG co-sanctioned event that began today. Ko’s the defending champion playing on home ground and the favorite to win, but Englishwoman Laura Davies doesn’t agree. Davies has been playing pro golf for 29 years and holds an incredible 84 professional titles. She knows her way around most of the world’s golf courses and she’s seen fully a generation of new golfers enter and pass through the professional ranks. When Davies says Charley Hull “is an exciting prospect and has a really bright future,” she’s rendering a deeply experienced assessment. The New Zealand Women’s Open provides an ideal proving ground for Charley Hull.
Charley Hull – Fearless Powerhouse
Charley Hull, then sixteen years old, turned pro in January 2013 and over the 2013 season Hull entered fourteen LET events, made twelve cuts, finished in the runner up position four times and in the top-10 four times. She exploded onto the US pro golf scene last August at the Colorado Golf Club, the youngest member of Team Europe at the 2013 Solheim Cup. Hull ended her rookie season with the LET Rookie of the Year award.
Hull’s fearless on the golf course. With an overall 2-1-0 record at the Solheim, Hull contributed six birdies in her foursomes match with Jodi Ewart Shadoff to carry the European team and win her first point. In singles, Hull simply outplayed Paula Creamer in every aspect of the game (despite a few missed four-footers) for a five-and-four victory, Europe’s first Sunday point, then did a very teen-aged thing. She asked Creamer to autograph a golf ball as a memento of the match.
Hull vs Ko
Charley Hull and Lydia Ko are paired for the first and second rounds of the New Zealand Women’s Open. The two are essentially the same age, and while Ko might seem to have the advantage — she’s ranked fourth by Rolex and Hull’s ranked 100th — Hull doesn’t agree. The focus will be on Ko. That takes the pressure off Hull: people won’t expect too much from [me] but as Lydia a lot of people expect it.
Hull has been paired with Ko twice before, at the 2013 The Evian Championship and again at the 2013 CN Canadian Women’s Open, and came out second-best both times. Hull wasn’t playing well at The Evian. She missed the cut, but she paid attention to Ko’s game tempo during their Evian round, something she learned from her Solheim Cup experience, where match play strategies hinge on watching and anticipating your opponent moreso than in stroke play competition.
I was working on some stuff and it wasn’t quite together, she explained, and I thought if my tempo was better, it would give me more of a chance, so that is one thing I have definitely noticed with Lydia. . . She has got a great tempo, that is one of the main things I worked on over winter.
Is the 2013 LET Rookie of the Year ready for this third meeting with the star LPGA 2014 rookie? Their first round suggests Hull’s up to the challenge. Hull made a much steadier start than Ko and when they made the turn Hull was 35, one shot under par, while Ko was at 38, two shots over. Hull had set her game tempo with her first tee shot and she kept the rhythm, carding 34 on the second nine and ending the first round 3 shots under par.
Ko, in contrast, while slower to get going, kicked her game into high gear during the second nine, shooting 31 and outplaying Hull by three shots.
In the end, Hull and Ko are both one shot off the lead and starting the second round in a five-way tie for the second spot on the leaderboard.
If the first round was the litmus test, Charlie Hull’s been able to implement the changes in her game that she’s worked on during the last six weeks? Now the question becomes: Can she sustain that steady, even tempo under the relentless fire of Lydia Ko’s laser-like accuracy off the tee and on the green? Her LET mentor Laura Davies thinks she’s ready to do just that, and Charley Hull’s going into the second round of the New Zealand Women’s Open on the prowl for her first professional victory.