Shrouded by a protester’s billowing smoke bomb on the 17th hole, doused with the celebratory champagne by her peers on the 18th?

Lilia Vu’s march to victory in the AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath certainly had a lively conclusion. The popping of the bubbly cork was thoroughly justified. As for that smoky thingamabob? It was going to take more than that to halt Vu’s triumphant parade as she claimed her second major title of 2023 with a quite masterful display.

Her closing five-under 67 gave the 25-year-old Californian a 14-under aggregate and a commanding six-shot win over the valiant Charley Hull who signed off with a 73. It was the biggest margin of victory in the championship since Jiyai Shin’s nine-stroke romp at Hoylake in 2012. Shin, making her first Women’s Open appearance in seven years, finished third yesterday but the rest of field were mere footnotes on a final day that developed into the kind of two-horse race you got when War Admiral took on Seabiscuit.

In the end, though, Vu cantered to glory. She was simply too good and, apart from a ropey moment on the 15th where she leaked her only shot of the day, her composure, control and clinical edge was something else. This was a masterclass from the new world No.1.

Having won her first major in April’s Chevron Championship, Vu then missed three of her next four cuts. Golf has a habit of swiftly dragging you back down to earth with a painful dunt. There was a silver lining to Vu’s toils last night. And a whopping cheque for £1.35million.

“I didn’t feel like myself for the past couple of months, I had a tough run and I came into this tournament just wanting to be in contention,” said Vu, who has struggled with the expectations of being a major champion “That’s all we wanted and somehow this happened. It’s almost unreal.”

Sharing the lead with Hull going into the final day, Vu made an early statement of intent when she pulled a cracking birdie out of the hat on the second, the toughest hole on the course.

As Vu prospered, Hull stumbled to bogeys on the third and fourth as her push for a maiden major title faltered. When Vu birdied the ninth, the American was three clear.

She was disappearing over the horizon as far as Hull was concerned but the local hopeful, trailing by five when they reached the 11th, conjured a rousing moment of magic to galvanise her stuttering quest. Plonked in the bunker in two on the par-5, the 27-year-old holed her third shot from the sand for an eagle while Vu made a three-putt par.

It was a wonderfully executed recovery from Hull and marginally better than her own efforts to exit the sand as she toppled over amid the giddy hysteria. The lead was cut to three again but Vu was having none of it. A brilliant approach to the 12th spawned another birdie as she kept Hull at bay.

Vu had been as unflappable as a steel girder but there were hints of a shoogle on the 15th. After a wayward drive into the heather, Vu could only hack out before pushing her approach into the greenside bunker. Hull had a real chance to capitalise, but her putter refused to co-operate and she three-putted for a wretched bogey while Vu limited the damage to a bogey of her own. It was a big moment and the leader walked off the green four clear.

Hull was now in the last-chance saloon and she spurned an eagle chance from eight-feet on 16 which summed up her putting woes. When she bogeyed the 17th, and everybody wafted away the fog of those aforementioned smoke bombs, Vu was five ahead.

Hull was in trouble off the 18th tee but finished with a flourish. Given she had struggled to hole anything all day, a huge par putt on the last was something of a bittersweet moment as she secured her second runners-up finish in a major this season. “I really feel like next year is my time to win one,” said a defiant Hull.

Not to be outdone, Vu trundled in a 20-footer for a closing birdie. It was a champagne moment.

With Shin taking third, Ally Ewing, who led by five at halfway, had to settle for a share of sixth on four-under. Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh tied for 36th on two-over.