‘Shy girls don’t get sweets’: How Charley Hull nearly stole the show at Pebble
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Charley Hull is fidgety, intense. She does not do well with downtime, or standing still.
“The biggest problem with me is I get bored on the golf course,” Hull said after Saturday’s third round of the U.S. Women’s Open. She said drinking in the views had helped her guard against impatience.
The next day, she didn’t need the ocean vistas. She found another way to keep things from getting dull.
Hull woke just after sunrise for Sunday’s finale knowing that fireworks would be required. She was even-par for the week, seven shots back of leader Nasa Hataoka. The prospect was exciting.
“It’s quite fun,” she said. “I quite enjoy chasing someone down because you got to make birdies and you got to make up a move up that leaderboard.”
She inhaled some breakfast — “just to get some good food in me” — limbered up and hit the range. Hull has said that practice is boring for her, too. On Sunday, though, even her range session was eventful. As Hull and playing partner Angel Yin were wrapping up their warmups, an unidentified man, carrying a quiver of clubs, trespassed onto the practice grounds, seemingly intent on hitting shots. Security quickly whisked him away, causing a small commotion. But if Hull had been distracted, it didn’t show when she got to the 1st tee.
Hull, 27, does most everything fast. Plays fast. Walks fast. Earlier this year, when she was getting ready to take her driver’s test in her native England (OK, she was slow to get her license), her instructor told her that the first thing she should do was let off the gas.
On Sunday, she started like a rocket. Eagle on the 2nd. Back-to-back-birdies on 3 and 4. She marched after tee shots, leaving Yin 50 yards in her wake.
Hull is from Kettering, an industrial town north of London, and her accent is more working-class than Buckingham Palace. In 2019, she married a mixed-martial arts fighter. On Sunday at Pebble, the glare she wore when she scanned the leaderboards was the look of someone fixing for a steel-cage brawl.
She has been a killer in head-to-heads, a five-time Solheim Cupper who first appeared in the event at the age of 17, crushing Paula Creamer 5-and-4 in Sunday singles.
But Pebble wasn’t match play. Hull could only do so much.
“I thought if I could get to seven- or eight-under, maybe there was a chance,” she said. “But I knew I would need some help.”
She was five-under after 15, but three shots off the lead, now held by Allisen Corpuz. Hull was running out of time. A blistered 3-wood followed by a wedge to the 16th green left her with a 30-footer. When she poured in the birdie, and the crowd erupted, Hull allowed herself a grin that was gone almost as soon as it appeared.
This U.S. Women’s Open had been hailed as a watershed, the first time the event had come to Pebble. And it was a pivotal occasion. But the pairing of the tournament and the venue also carried implied comparisons: Finally, the refrain went, the best female golfers in the world would compete on a fabled course known for hosting the men.
As it happened, Hull’s drive on 18 settled behind the cypress tree that stands right-center of the fairway, conjuring memories of an iconic moment in the men’s game, at the 2010 U.S. Open, when Tiger Woods found himself in a similar spot. Hull wasted little time in settling on the aggressive option.
“Shy girls don’t get sweets,” she told her caddie. Like Woods, she played a fairway wood — a bullet draw, in her case, that bounded left into the bunker, just shy of the narrow opening to the green. Figuring she’d needed eagle to have an outside chance, Hull made par. A tie for second.
“I’m not playing for second place,” she said afterward.
She was looking antsy. She had a plane to catch for her next event.