There are many key attributes for a player seeking to win a major championship. In addition to possessing the requisite talent, a player needs to display confidence and resilience in order to succeed. In 2018, Georgia Hall had all three, together with a belief that destiny was on her side.
Sitting one shot back at the start of the final round at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2018, Hall had a level of comfort and positivity that few would have anticipated. Those feelings came from her experience of coming up short in the event.
One year prior, after the third round of the Women’s Open at Kingsbarns, Hall broke down in tears. Playing in the final group, she had just four-putted the 17th hole, and despite an eventual runaway victory for I-K Kim, Hall thought she may have blown the biggest chance she would ever get to win a major.
“I remember after that round I just sat in the car in tears,” Hall said. “I thought, how many times do you get a moment to try and win the Women's Open? And obviously I had one more round left, but I just thought that was it, I didn’t know that I would ever get a chance like that again.”
“I didn't know that I would ever get a chance like that again.” Georgia Hall
While many would be surprised to hear a world-class player nearer the dawn of her golfing career than the twilight think like this, to Hall the thought was real, and the possibility scary.
“You never know what’s going to happen in golf throughout the years," Hall said. "I might have in the future 10 more chances where I’m close to winning, or I might have none. It all falls on one week of that year, in the AIG Women’s Open.
"So that’s why it’s rare that a lot of golfers in their lifetime, very few probably, have even three chances to try and win, so I think the next year I had a lot of confidence.”
Going into Royal Lytham and St Annes, Hall had quickly gathered the confidence and resilience required to match her natural talent. A sense of destiny, it seemed, was also falling into place for the Bournemouth native.
Hall was named after Augusta National in Georgia, when the three-time Open Champion Nick Faldo won the Masters in 1996. However, it was the Open Champion of that same year who proved to be the 24-year-old’s good omen.
An encounter with Tom Lehman the week prior to the 2018 Women’s Open proved to Hall that the stars were beginning to align. Lehman won The Open in 1996 at Royal Lytham & St Annes, in Georgia's birth year, and gave Hall some tips for the week.
Even going into Saturday afternoon, there was a feeling that Hall’s star was about to shine. “When I got in that position on the Saturday and Sunday, I mean I was in the top five mostly the whole week anyway, but on the last two days it was right, ‘here we go’. I birdied the last on the Saturday to get in the final group on the Sunday.”
Hall birdied the first hole on Sunday too before her playing partner and overnight leader Pornanong Phatlum caught fire, as the Thai star birdied four of the next five holes. However, already in a position to rectify the heartbreak of 2017 at the first time of asking, Hall was comfortable and positive, but also stoic. She knew she couldn’t get disheartened or distracted.
“When I was playing I really wanted to try and enjoy it a bit more and take in the atmosphere,” Hall said, “but the problem is if I’d have done that, I probably wouldn’t have won because my emotions get really high.
“Not in a confidence way, I just knew. I just knew I had already won it.” Georgia Hall
“I was so close to winning, so I really took the Kingsbarns experience, and I just thought ‘no, I’ve just got to concentrate on each shot and then I can relax when I finish’, so that’s what I tried to do. It’s much harder than it sounds though!”
Whilst the 24-year-old admits she wasn’t quite as calm in the early part of the round as she might have appeared, she was certainly as confident, and as determined, as she seemed.
She added: “What helped me a lot was I knew that 90 per cent of the crowd were wanting to me win. It really was nice to hear them cheering every time I holed a putt, and it would make me kind of want to hole them more in a way, and hit good shots.”
While Phatlum got off to a great start, Hall stayed with her most of the round, and after holing for birdie on the Par-4 13th hole, the two players were tied for the lead.
“I think a turning point was on 13 where I holed a good birdie putt to get level," added Hall. "And then it was weird, after that I thought I’d already won it. Not in a confidence way, I just knew. I just knew I had already won it, so I was very relaxed, I just thought it’s going to happen. This has got to be my event, being in England. I don’t know, I thought I had it then.”
Hall is not immune to this sense of renewed calm and invincibility, and says she experienced it in her Solheim Cup singles match last year against Lexi Thompson.
“I do have that sometimes,” she said. “When you shoot a six-under round, a lot of players feel like they’re not worried about anything, not worried about hazards or bunkers, they just hit it kind of worry-free. I have had that.
“Sometimes it can go away but I think when things do happen like that, I try very hard to make the most of it. It is a great feeling, but then you get some times when nothing goes your way.”
Things certainly went Hall’s way in 2018. The then-22-year-old, just a year on from an emotional loss in the Women’s Open, was back on English soil, and despite Phatlum’s best efforts, she was not going to lose.
“I really wanted to try and enjoy it a bit more and take in the atmosphere, but the problem is if I'd have done that, I probably wouldn't have won.” Georgia Hall
“On 16, I hit a 3-wood on the green on a par-5, and she was kind of in an impossible position” Hall said. “I just thought ‘ah, I’m going one more ahead now’. Then she hits it to two foot, an incredible shot, and so I was still only level with her at that point.
“Then I holed a massive putt on 16 for birdie, it was crazy really, my putts always found the hole. You only get a few moments like that a year, or not even that. And then just from then I was just trying to be sensible, so I was happy to walk off the 18th without messing that up.”
After her birdie on the 16th, Hall moved three shots clear after Phatlum dougle-bogeyed the 17th. After staying in the moment all day, Hall finally could relax and enjoy her moment.
“I think it does make it more special, obviously, winning it in my home country," she said. "And still to this day, I have some pictures that my management made for me and I see all the crowds in the background watching me, and I just feel absolutely amazed how many people came to support me.
“To see all of them come up to watch me is extremely special and I really hope to get that moment again. I would love to win more AIG Women's Opens, it’s still my favourite major by far.”
With many AIG Women's Opens in her future, the 24-year-old is only just getting started. But thanks to her win in 2018, she is already firmly established as a Hero of the AIG Women's Open.