Golf: Ariya hopes to cough up another Major

World No. 3 Ariya Jutanugarn will leave her driver out of the bag at this week's British Open, and will tee off with a three-wood or two-iron.
World No. 3 Ariya Jutanugarn will leave her driver out of the bag at this week's British Open, and will tee off with a three-wood or two-iron.PHOTO: REUTERS

Despite a cold, defending champion aims to rediscover red-hot form at the British Open

ST ANDREWS (Scotland) • Ariya Jutanugarn may be fighting a cold but memories of her women's British Open win last year are keeping her warm as she prepares for her title defence this week at Kingsbarns.

The 21-year-old from Thailand won the Major title by three shots over the tree-lined Woburn course - and she knows she faces a vastly different challenge at the wind-swept Scottish links.

But one thing would not change from 12 months ago. The driver will not be in the bag.

The powerful hitter did not use the golfer's biggest weapon last year and she said: "This time it will also stay in the locker. I'll be using my three-wood and my two-iron from the tee.

"This is only my third time at a links course. But I know I'll have to keep the ball low and sometimes aim 50 yards right or 40 yards left."

Ariya spent a brief spell as the world No. 1 when she won the Manulife LPGA Classic in Cambridge, Ontario last month. However, she has since struggled to find her peak form.

She missed the cut at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship and the US Women's Open. In between those two Majors, she withdrew from the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic with a shoulder injury.

  • PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • 2.36pm

    Brooke Henderson (Can),

    Lydia Ko (Nzl),

    Michelle Wie (USA)

  • 7.16pm

    Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha),

    Ryu So Yeon (Kor),

    Lexi Thompson (USA)

  • 7.27pm

    Feng Shanshan (Chn),

    Charley Hull (Eng),

    Mo Martin (USA)

  • 7.38pm

    Nelly Korda (USA),

    Haru Nomura (Jpn),

    Park In Bee (Kor)

  • 7.49pm

    Stacy Lewis (USA),

    Klara Spilkova (Cze),

    Amy Yang (Kor)

  • All local times.

She then finished tied-44th in her last appearance - at the Scottish Open, and her struggles have caused her to drop to world No. 3 behind South Korean Ryu So Yeon and Lexi Thompson of the United States.

To make matters worse, Ariya is ill going into the first round of the British Open today.

"It's getting better, but I've now got a terrible cold," she said, coughing and spluttering.

"It started on Saturday and has got worse."

She admits her life has changed dramatically since becoming the first Thai golfer to win a Major.

"Everyone back home is very proud," said last year's LPGA Player of the Year. "I won an award at the end of the year and now everyone knows me."

This is her first visit to St Andrews, the Scottish town regarded as the home of golf. But her 23-year-old sister Moriya, who played in the British Open over the Old Course four years ago, has been the perfect tour guide.

"It is a very special place and it's cool to be here," said the five-time winner on the LPGA Tour.

"My sister took me round the 17th and 18th at the Old Course. It was everything that I expected."

Olympic champion Park In Bee won the title at Turnberry two years ago to complete a career Grand Slam of the Majors, and is aiming for a Scottish double.

She missed last year's Open due to injury, but bounced back to win Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro.

"It's good to be back," admitted the 29-year-old South Korean.

"I played in the Scottish Open at Dundonald last week and took a trip back to Turnberry. I had some great memories.

"My ball striking is not where I want it to be, but I always love the challenge of a links course. Sometimes I play well, and sometimes I don't get it. It's a mindset. You have to be prepared to be frustrated."

The seven-time Major winner spent more than a year as world No. 1 from 2013-2014, but she is at No. 10. But the Rio experience has helped elevate her status.

"People in restaurants and gas stations say they know me because of the Olympics," she revealed.

"It was an incomparable experience. Something completely different and it ranks right up there with the very best that I have achieved."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

Day 1: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 5pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2017, with the headline 'Ariya hopes to cough up another Major'. Print Edition | Subscribe