Golf: Thailand's Ariya captures third LPGA title in a row

Ariya Jutanugarn from Thailand poses with the championship trophy after winning the LPGA Volvik Championship on May 29, 2016.
Ariya Jutanugarn from Thailand poses with the championship trophy after winning the LPGA Volvik Championship on May 29, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

CHICAGO (AFP) - Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn won her third consecutive LPGA title on Sunday, firing a final-round five-under par 67 to win the inaugural Volvik Championship by five strokes over American Christina Kim.

Ariya became the first player to capture her first three LPGA crowns consecutively, pushing the 20-year-old from Bangkok within two of the tour record win streak of five events by Sweden's Annika Sorenstam and American Nancy Lopez.

Ariya became the first Thai player to win an LPGA title when she took the Yokohama Tire Classic in Alabama earlier this month and added the Kingsmill Championship last week.

"It feels easier," Ariya said. "I got a little bit excited before this crowd but I just decided I would do what is under my control."

Ariya is the first LPGA player to win three events in a row since South Korean Park In-Bee in 2013, the woman nicknamed "May" in her homeland after sweeping the LPGA events in the month of May.

She will skip next week's Shoprite LPGA Classic to focus on the year's second major tournament, the Women's PGA Championship at Sammamish, Washington, on June 9-12.

"To be honest, my goal is I really want to win my first major," Ariya said.

Asked what she will do on her week off, Ariya replied matter-of-factly - "practice harder." Ariya finished 72 holes at Ann Arbor, Michigan, on 15-under 273, putting her at a combined 43-under par for her past 12 rounds.

Kim was second on 278 after a closing 71 with Canada's Brooke Henderson and American Jessica Korda, the 23-year-old daughter of former tennis standout Petr Korda, sharing third on 279 and Spain's Belen Mozo fifth on 280.

Korda was paired with Ariya in Sunday's final group and marveled at the Thai star's performance. "It was great. I'm speechless. That was amazing. I didn't see 5-under there when we started the day," Korda said.

"Honestly, she putted so well today. It wasn't easy, greens were a little bit bumpy. She made it look so easy."

Ariya birdied the par-5 sixth and finished with flourish in her third bogey-free round of the week, sealing her triumph with back-to-back birdies at the par-4 13th and par-5 14th plus the par-3 16th and par-4 17th.

"When I (first) see the course, I just feel like it's really hard for me because I can't hit my driver and I really have to have a good game plan," Ariya said. "So to be honest, first time I see it, I think this course is hard and I don't think I'm going to win."