Ariya is first golf no.1 from S-E Asia

Ariya Jutanugarn, 2016 LPGA Player of the Year, in the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout in April where she tied for ninth.
Ariya Jutanugarn, 2016 LPGA Player of the Year, in the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout in April where she tied for ninth.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Thai will be the 10th different golfer to top women's rankings since their introduction

NEW YORK • Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn will become the first South-east Asian - male or female - to ascend to the top of the world golf rankings today.

Already the first golfer from the region to win a Major championship when she claimed the Women's British Open last year, she has now made more history without hitting a ball.

She displaced New Zealand's Lydia Ko, with neither hitting a club, after Ryu So Yeon missed the cut at the LPGA ShopRite Classic on Saturday to cement the shift.

The South Korean, ranked third in the world, had a chance to leapfrog Ariya by finishing third or better in the tournament in Galloway, New Jersey. But she fired back-to-back rounds of three-over 74 to miss the second-round cut in the 54-hole tournament.

Ariya becomes the 10th player to reach No. 1 since the women's rankings were introduced in 2006, after Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Shin Ji Yai, Ai Miyazato, Cristie Kerr, Tseng Ya-ni, Stacy Lewis, Park In Bee and Ko, who was at the summit for the last 84 weeks.

Reaching the top of the rankings, which evaluate a player's performance over a rolling two-year period, was reward for Ariya's consistency and an outstanding 2016, when she was named LPGA Player of the Year.

The 21-year-old won five LPGA tournaments last year. While the Bangkok native is still seeking her first victory this season, she has posted three runner-up finishes in 12 starts.

She will tee off as No. 1 at this week's Manulife LPGA Classic at the Whistle Bear Golf Club.

South Korea's Kim In Kyung will be hoping to arrive in Ontario, Canada with a fifth LPGA title to her name.

She shared the 36-hole lead at the ShopRite Classic with American Paula Creamer on nine-under 133. Both shot 67s.

Kim closed her round with back-to-back birdies and said she is feeling "even stronger" after a winter spent recuperating from injuries suffered in a freak fall down some stairs. She has played just half a dozen tournaments this year, but said she has recovered well.

"This winter I didn't have any break, I needed some time to get ready for the summer," she said. "I'm really happy to get back."

Creamer posted five birdies and a bogey, and kept her share of the lead with an up and down for par at her final hole, the ninth - where her second shot landed left of the green and she took an unplayable lie.

The leading duo were two strokes in front of two-time defending champion Anna Nordqvist (71) of Sweden, South Korea's Lee Jeong Eun (70) and Moriya Jutanugarn (70) - Ariya's sister.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2017, with the headline 'Ariya is first golf no.1 from S-E Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe