Five reasons why it’s worth coming out to see world No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn at The Grange this week (or if not, at least tuning into ABC television)…
Ariya Jutanugarn famously has not carried a driver in recent times (although in Florida at the LPGA Tour’s season-opener, she did). Generally, she considers that she does not need a driver because her three wood is a lethal weapon. Minjee Lee, the Australian, called it “a rocket”, acknowledging that it goes past her best blow with a driver. And Lee is not short off the tee.
The world No. 1 was only 15th in driving distance on tour last year at 266 yards (243 metres) but that’s because she was hitting three woods. If she gets her Callaway driver going in Adelaide, watch out. Practising at the Lake Nona resort in Florida January, she drove a par-four with it. The hole measured 359 yards (328 metres).
Jutanugarn never got the memo that told professional athletes they needed to be deadly serious. She’s always smiling, and waving to people. Even clapping and congratulating her opponents, heaven forbid.
At Shoal Creek in the US Women’s Open last year when she reached a playoff with Korean Hyo Joo Kim, the Korean holed a 10-metre putt and the cameras caught Jutanugarn applauding with the rest of the crowd. Several commentators were critical that she could be so generous in a head-to-head combat.
But Jutanugarn is always like that, as she has since explained to Golf.com recently: “I normally do that,” she said. “When you see a good shot, it’s just a good shot. There’s nothing you can do about that. I just have to do my best. I’m rooting for everyone because if I’m going to win the tournament, I don’t want to win because another player didn’t play good. I want to win a tournament when she plays good and I play good.”
BEST OF THE BEST
Thailand’s Jutanugarn is only 23 but she has won two majors, the Women’s British Open and the US Women’s Open. She scaled to No. 1 for the first time in 2017 and last year regained the mantle.
She won three tournaments in 2018 and with a string of other strong finishes was the LPGA Tour player of the year for the second time, having previously won that title in 2016 when she won five tournaments.
She hit 71 percent of greens in regulation last year and averaged only 28.6 putts per round.
Coached by Gary Gilchrist, she’s a ‘feel’ player who does not like to complicate matters or allow too many swing thoughts to enter her head. She’s not a manufactured player by any stretch of the imagination.
To reach No. 1 in the world, Ariya Jutanugarn had to first fight off a member of her own family. Her elder sister Moriya or ‘Mo’ is an LPGA Tour professional herself, and achieved her first victory in Los Angeles last year.
The pair are inseparable, having grown up representing Thailand in junior golf.
Jutanugarn has said she wants to win to inspire young golfers in her native Thailand, where previously, the best-known professional players have been the likes of Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, male players.She was the first-ever Thai winner of an LPGA tournament (in 2016) and the first-ever Thai to win a golfing major.