From losing clubs to top of the club

Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn with her US Women's Open trophy after beating South Korea's Kim Hyo Joo in the fourth play-off hole at the Shoal Creek, Alabama course on Sunday.
Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn with her US Women's Open trophy after beating South Korea's Kim Hyo Joo in the fourth play-off hole at the Shoal Creek, Alabama course on Sunday.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Ariya is doused with water by members of her entourage in celebration of her second Major title victory.
Ariya is doused with water by members of her entourage in celebration of her second Major title victory.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ariya is first Thai golfer to win US Open as she recovers from losing huge lead for 2nd Major

SHOAL CREEK (Alabama) • A week that started with an airline losing her golf clubs ended with Ariya Jutanugarn winning the 73rd US Women's Open in a manner that could rival the drama of her favourite Thai soap operas.

The Bangkok native survived a back-nine meltdown that ranks among the most memorable in Major championship history to claim victory in a play-off on Sunday.

She frittered away a seven-shot lead with nine holes remaining before parring the fourth play-off hole to edge South Korea's Kim Hyo Joo and become the first player from Thailand to lift the trophy.

"I feel great," she said. "I am really excited. I'm really honoured to join the list of winners before me."

The 22-year-old parred all four play-off holes at the Shoal Creek, Alabama course for her second win of this LPGA Tour season to go with the Kingsmill Championship.

"After you have a seven-shot lead and end up with you having to go to a play-off, I had no expectations," said Ariya, whose only other Major title came at the 2016 British Open. "If I have a play-off, then I'm going to make sure I do my best every shot because I felt like I didn't commit on the back nine. I felt like I had a last chance to make myself proud."

She finished with a one-over 73 and a 72-hole total of 11-under 277.

MAKING AMENDS

I felt like I didn't commit on the back nine. I felt like I had a last chance to make myself proud.

ARIYA JUTANUGARN , newly-crowned US Women's Open champion, on adjusting her mindset for the play-off after squandering a seven-shot lead in the final round.

South Korea's Kim, chasing a second Major title to go with her 2014 Evian Championship, closed with a bogey-free 67 to force the play-off and had two long putts to win in the extra session but could not get them to fall.

"I'm extremely happy that I was part of this historical day," said Kim, six off the lead at the start of the day.

"Although the play-off did not go as I wanted, I'm just happy and take pride that I made it to the play-off."

Both parred the third play-off hole and they returned to the par-four 18th, where Ariya's bunker shot left her with a tap-in for the win.

She had appeared to be headed to victory hours earlier, after a birdie at the ninth hole moved her to 16-under and a seven-stroke lead.

Her collapse began with a triple-bogey seven on No. 10 and continued with a bogey at the par-four No. 12, minutes after Kim holed a 40-footer putt.

And, when the Korean sank an even longer putt, 50 feet from off the green at the par-four 15th, Ariya's lead was down to one.

The Thai carried the meltdown through with back-to-back bogeys on the par-five 17th and the 18th.

Eight-time PGA Tour winner Brad Faxon, who followed Ariya for the final 36 holes, compared the meltdown to that of Arnold Palmer at the 1966 US Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco. Palmer also squandered a seven-shot lead over the final nine holes.

But, while the American legend lost in a play-off to Billy Casper, Ariya managed to right the ship and win in sudden death after the two-hole aggregate start failed to produce a winner.

Spain's Carlota Ciganda shot a three-under 69 to finish alone in third place, four strokes back of Ariya and Kim.

Ariya collected US$900,000 (S$1.2 million) for the win and is projected to rise from fifth to second in the world rankings.

Asked whether the win would boost her fame back home, she said: "I think I might get a little bit bigger," before pausing, and adding, "I hope."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2018, with the headline 'From losing clubs to top of the club'. Print Edition | Subscribe