Charley Hull wins Ladies European Tour season opener in Abu Dhabi
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 17/01/19 2:22pm
Charley Hull got her 2019 campaign off to the perfect start as she held off Marianne Skarpnord to win the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open.
Hull's closing 69 was enough to complete a wire-to-wire victory on eight under par, securing her third professional title and her first on the Ladies European Tour for almost five years.
Conditions remained warm and breezy at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, although the winds were nowhere near as strong as day two and allowed for far better scoring over the final 18 holes.
Skarpnord emerged as Hull's biggest threat when, after turning in 35, the Norwegian followed a birdie at the 11th with back-to-back gains at 14 and 15 before parring in to claim the clubhouse lead on seven under par.
Hull had slipped to five under for the tournament when she dropped her third shot of the round at the 10th, but her response was both immediate and impressive as she knocked her second to 15 feet at the long 11th and rolled in the chance for eagle.
The 22-year-old, who became engaged over the Christmas break, picked up another shot at 14 and maintained her lead until the last, where a play-off suddenly looked a possibility when Hull's approach found the rear bunker.
But Hull pulled off a superb up-and-down from the sand, her bunker escape rolling to within inches of the pin to seal the victory which validated her hard work on the practice ground during the winter break.
"I've practised really, really hard over the winter and it feels great to win back on the LET, especially since I had my first pro win in Morocco five years ago," said Hull. "Hopefully I can get a few more wins this year and I've been practising really hard so it shows that my hard work is paying off.
"I'm very happy with my round. I left a lot of putts out there today, but it's hard to putt when it's windy like this. It was windy all three days really and especially on the second day.
"Today the wind got up in the end and it was a tricky finish, especially the 18th hole, because you can't hit more than a five-iron off that tee to be short of the bunkers, or you go with the driver, and go over it all, and that's a risky shot.
"With that back-right pin it was a good finish and I hit a five-iron, over the green, had a 35-yard bunker shot and I stiffed it. It was quite tricky and I made the putt, so it feels really good to be back in the winners' circle again."
Skarpnord had to settle for outright second ahead of a fast-finishing Caroline Hedwall, whose classy 67 lifted her to three under alongside Jodi Ewart Shadoff, who began the day just a shot behind Hull but struggled to a disappointing 73.
Ewart Shadoff bogeyed the fourth and seventh before reviving her chances with three birdies in four holes around the turn, but the Solheim Cup star then dropped shots at two of the final three holes to slip into a tie for third.
Anne Van Dam, Nicole Broch Larsen and Luna Sobron also closed on three under, while defending champion Aditi Ashok raced into the top 10 with a superb 66 that earned her the low round of the week.