Ariya three-peats, wins in Michigan


Ariya three-peats, wins in Michigan

Ariya poses with her trophy from LPGA Volvik Championship win early Monday (Thailand time). ‘Nong May’ won every LPGA tournament in May, including her maiden victory at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic, the Kingsmill Championship and now the Michigan event. (Photo courtesy LPGA.com)

Bangkok’s Ariya ‘Nong May’ Jutanugarn won her third consecutive LPGA tournament at Ann Arbor Michigan, winning another $195,000 as she became the first woman ever to win her first three victories in a row.

Ariya “made history as the first player on the LPGA Tour to make her first three victories on Tour in consecutive events”, said LPGA.com in its official report on the tournament.

She also is the first player since Inbee Park in 2013 to win three consecutive tournaments.

“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 became the first Thai winner in tour history three weeks ago in Alabama and followed that up last week with a victory in Virginia. Ariya doesn’t plan to play the next event in New Jersey, where she would have had a shot to become the first since Lorena Ochoa in 2008 to win four scheduled tournaments in a row.

She will skip this week’s tournament, the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Instead, she will 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.

In three weeks, Ariya has earned just over 20 million baht. Her third straight victory boosted her 2016 winnings to $882,820 – 31.5 million baht.

The 20-year-old put on a performance of power golf on the back nine of the final round of the LPGA Volvik Championship early Monday (Thailand time), birdying four of her last six holes to pull away from the competition and win by six strokes, with a score of 15 under par.

Ariya beat second-place finisher Christina Kim of the United States, who finished at 10-under par.

Tied for third were American Jessica Korda and Canadian Brooke Henderson, who fired 68 to vault over other players.

Kim and Korda played the final round in a threesome with Ariya, and had started out on Sunday’s just a stroke behind the Thai.

Ariya was at or near the top throughout the tournament. On Day 1, she shot 64, but finished a shot behind Christina Kim. Her 68 in Round 2 put her on top by a stroke, as Kim fell to 71.

Leading the tournament after two days, she was again a miracle worker on Saturday. She fired four bogeys through the first 17 holes, and fell two strokes behind Americans Jessica Korda and Kim. So she fired an eagle on the 18th hole and finished Round 3 in first place as well.

Ariya is one of the longest hitters on the Tour, but never used her driver all week.

“I mean, when I 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,” she 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, I just really want to do my best.”

Even if she was in the rough or sand, Ariya’s deft touch put her in position to make par-saving putts or birdies.

Lightning in the area led to a 50-minute rain delay toward the end of Ariya’s front nine when she was 1-under for the day after a birdie at No. 6.

Facing a stiff, flag-flapping wind, she sent a tee shot into the right rough at No. 9. Her approach left her short of the green, but she got up and down for a par. As Ariya walked off the green, she stopped to shake the hand of Army specialist Zachary Loughrige, who was tending the US flag that was used in the hole.

She pulled away from the field with birdies at Nos. 13, 14 and 16, earning a five-shot cushion at 14 under.

Long before that moment, though, everyone else was vying for position on the leaderboard behind Ariya.

Before the breakthrough winning streak, Ariya was best known for two final-round heartbreaks. Last month in the ANA Inspiration, she had a two-stroke lead with three holes left and closed with three bogeys to finish fourth – two strokes behind winner Lydia Ko.

In the 2013 LPGA Thailand at age 17, Ariya blew a two-stroke lead with a closing triple bogey in a one-stroke loss to Park.

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