Date: February 14, 2019
Author: Martin Blake

Off to the range: Ariya opens slowly

Ariya Jutanugarn was on the driving range within five minutes of signing her card at The Grange today.

An opening 76 with two double bogeys and just two birdies at the par-fives was not what the reigning world No. 1 was looking for, and she admitted afterward that she was a way from finding last year’s three-victory season.

“You know what, I still have a lot of things to work on,’’ said the Thai superstar.

Jutanugarn began with a birdie at the first but immediately doubled the second, took a five at the par-three eighth hole, and limped in with four consecutive pars.

Big galleries followed her, and she certainly wowed them with some of her power.

But she did not take driver, preferring her nuclear three wood and sometimes long irons off the tees, meaning she played from a long way behind American Nelly Korda, a bomber whose second shot to the 348-metre 18th hole was no more than 55 metres. “I never feel I have to (use driver),’’ she said.  “I'm just going to put in when I want to.  So, not now.”

Jutanugarn said she was happy with her new caddie Tim Butler, who replaces Daniel Taylor, husband of Swedish professional Pernilla Lindberg, who lasted just one tournament on her bag – at the tournament of champions in Florida last month.

While it gives the appearances of some instability, Jutanugarn was matter-of-fact. “He (Butler) did good job,” she said.  He's very nice guy, and he helped me a lot.  And seems like he very good caddie, too.”

Asked why she had made the change, Jutanugarn skipped the most recent change and referred back to her previous looper, Les Luerk. “You know, we have been together for so long, and  he's my family, he's like my brother, and sometimes we fight a lot. And we don't want to have that kind of feeling, you know, really close family and fight, you know.”

Jutanugarn finds herself 11 shots from the lead but she will have the potential advantage of an early tee time tomorrow. She tees off at 7.44am tomorrow with Lydia Ko and Korda.