Number one!

national June 13, 2017 01:00

By THE NATION

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Golf sensation Ariya claims top position with monster 25-foot putt



IT’S OFFICIAL. Ariya Jutanugarn is now the new world No 1 – and the first Thai golfer to reach the top of the sport.

When the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA) rankings were updated yesterday, the 21-year-old Ariya finally overtook Lydia Ko of New Zealand to grab pole position.

This followed her dramatic win in the Manulife LPGA Classic in Ontario on Sunday. Ariya won US$255,000 (about Bt8.69 million) for the victory and gained 8.78 points in the world rankings.

That enabled her to surpass Ko, who fell to second with 8.34 points, while South Korean So Yeon Ryu, the world No-3, collected 8.17 points.

Last week the LPGA made an error, announcing that Ariya would replace Ko as the new top-ranked player on June 5. However, LPGA officials later discovered they had made a miscalculation and that the Thai trailed the Kiwi by just 0.01 points. That meant a new announcement to say Ariya remained in second position.

But the young champion appeared to take it in her stride.

“To be honest, I didn’t pay attention to the ranking,” she said on Sunday. “I only want to go out and have fun. That’s my goal for the rest of the year – to have a good time playing on the course.”

Six titles in 18 months

Ariya has now won six LPGA titles in just a year and a half: the 2017 Manulife LPGA Classic, the 2016 Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic, the 2016 Kingsmill Championship, the 2016 LPGA Volvik Championship, the 2016 Ricoh Women’s British Open and the 2016 Canadian Pacific Women’s Open.

Sunday’s title marked her first crown for this year. Ariya drained a brilliant 25-foot birdie putt to beat American Lexi Thompson and South Korea’s Chun In-Gee in a play-off after the trio were tied at 17-under-par (271) at Whistle Bear Golf Club in Cambridge. 

It was a monstrous shot which ended a 10-month title “drought” and left her in tears.

“I just can’t believe I won the tournament. I didn’t expect anything at all, because when I got here I didn’t feel comfortable with my swing. 

“It’s a surprise for me. I never thought I could win here,” she said. 

Her career earnings have passed $4.2 million (Bt143 million).

“I feel great [to win a first title in 2017] – feel like I broke through … like I waited for my first win this year for a while.” 

Ariya is the only women’s player to win her first three titles one-after-the-other (the Yokohama Tire, Kingsmill and LPGA Volvik in May last year).

She has been away from Thailand since March, playing on the LPGA Tour in the US, and is accompanied by her mother Narumon and elder sister Moriya, who is also a professional player, ranked No 46 in the world. 

However, she was by herself this week, as her mum and sister stayed in the US.

“When I made that last putt, they just texted me ‘Congratulations’. 

“I’m going to text them back and [say] ‘Thanks for your support. You’re not here with me’,” she said.

Ariya is not due to return to Thailand until December when the season is over.

But inspired by her success, many young Thai girls have been taking golf, hoping to follow her footsteps into the international arena. 

Asked what she would advise young players, she said: “I think, follow your dream and never give up. That’s the key for me.”

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