Jun 04, 2018: Ariya Jutanugarn should be very proud of herself.
Sunday, the Thai won her second major title and became the first player from Thailand to win the U.S. Women’s Open conducted by the USGA. Jutanugarn defeated Hyo Joo Kim on the fourth playoff hole to capture her ninth career win on the LPGA Tour and become just the fifth player in women’s golf to win both the U.S. Women’s Open and Ricoh Women’s British Open.
Saturday when Jutanugarn took the 54-hole lead, she spoke about her re-commitment to her work with Vision 54 on the mental aspects of her game. She’s spent the last several months working on being proud of herself, employing self-talk, and even singing to herself to keep her mind in the right place. The fight and determination she showed on Sunday, should have the fifth ranked player in the world bursting with pride.
She started the day with a four-stroke lead and by the turn had extended her lead to seven. She reached 16-under par with her birdie at the par 4, 9th hole to match Juli Inkster’s record set in 1999 of the most strokes under par in a U.S. Women’s Open.
“I’m really proud of myself the front-9. I did everything I want to do,” said Jutanugarn. “I have really good commitment. I never think about the outcome of the front-9 but that back got me a lot.”
The back nine is where everything took a turn.
Jutanugarn put her tee shot in the creek to the right of the fairway at the par 4, 10thand was forced to take a drop. Her third shot came up short of the hole and was still in the trees. She made triple bogey to cut her lead four ahead of a charging Hyo Joo Kim, who was already three-under on her day.
“On 10 I didn’t feel comfortable to hit 3-wood and honestly I shouldn’t hit 3-wood but I did,” Jutanugarn explained. “After that kind of play a little bit scared like my next shot, so after that I’m not really hit 3-wood anymore.”
Another birdie from Kim and an additional bogey by Jutanugarn at the par 4, 12th cut the lead to two. Just an hour prior, Jutanugarn led by seven. Kim’s chip in for birdie at the par 4, 15th put her within one of the Thai.
“Actually, I wasn’t keeping up the with score at the time so I didn’t really know about it,” said Kim. “When I made that putt I felt like the luck was with me today.”
A backup at the par 3, 16th gave Jutanugarn a chance to regroup. The player notorious for being a homebody who likes to lay in bed and watch TV, pulled up a seat in the grass and leaned against her golf bag. For 10 minutes she sat on the tee box and looked to the green up ahead where she watched Kim miss a birdie opportunity to tie her for the lead. When it was Jutanugarn’s turn, she stepped up and knocked her approach to two-feet which she made for birdie to extend her lead again to two with two holes to play. But at the par 5, 17th she chunked her chip from behind the green to cut her lead to one ahead of Kim with just one hole to go.
Jutanugarn stood in the fairway at the 72nd hole and watched as Kim closed with a par to record a bogey-free, 66. The Thai needed a par at the last for the win. Jutanugarn put her approach in the bunker and when she missed the 12-footer she left herself for par, the pair finished tied in regulation at 11-under par and headed to extra holes.
“After you have like seven shot lead and end up with you have to go to playoff, I have no expectations because like I kind of got mad a little bit with my back-9,” Jutanugarn said. “If I have a playoff I’m going to make sure I do my best every shot because I feel like I didn’t commit about the back-9. I feel I have last chance to make myself proud.”
The pair remained tied after the two-hole aggregate playoff and returned again to the par 4, 14th and par 4, 18th holes. It was that second trip to the par 4, 18th where Jutanugarn and Kim both found the greenside bunker that became the difference maker. Jutanugarn hit her bunker shot to a foot and the win to cap off an incredible week.
The former Rolex Rankings world No. 1 is projected to move from No. 5 to No. 2 in the world with her victory at Shoal Creek.
“I haven’t thought about the ranking for a while but, of course, after this win I think I’ll be thinking about the ranking and talk about that, but I even want to be No. 1, I want to inspire all the kids in Thailand.”