Date: January 27, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Thai sisters spice up Adelaide field

Thai golf’s brilliant one-two punch is on its way to Adelaide.

Sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn have committed to play the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Kooyonga from 15-18 February, bringing with them extraordinary tales of their 2017 seasons that remarkably left them both in the top 10 on the LPGA Tour’s money list.

Ariya, just 22, has finished third in her two most recent tilts at the Australian crown, including at Royal Adelaide last year, while older sister Moriya was 16th in 2017, but has a T4 finish to her credit in 2013.

And it would be no surprise to see either at the pointy end of the chase for the Patricia Bridges Bowl next month.

“We had an amazing season in 2017,” said Ariya, who hit the top of the world rankings for two weeks in June last year.

“It’s going to be interesting to see where this season takes us both and we can’t wait to get to Adelaide and get into the swing again.

“I had a great time at Royal Adelaide and really enjoyed the city and everything it had to offer, and I’ve heard only good things about Kooyonga.”

Moriya had one of the more incredible seasons imagineable without that elusive victory as she climbed to her current No.22 in the world rankings by pure consistency.

She missed just one cut and enjoyed 21 top-20 finishes including a remarkable six top-fives. Almost unbelievably, while still searching for her first LPGA Tour win, she amassed an incredible $US1.32 million, good for ninth on the tour’s money list.

It’s also a testament to her sublime short game that, for someone not renowned as being a long hitter, she led the tour in birdies and was third in rounds under par.

"I'm looking forward to playing the ISPS Handa Australia Women's Open alongside my sister," Moriya said.

"I see that the field will be strong again and hope to be able to play well at the challenging Kooyonga – it would be a great way to start the Asia swing off with a strong finish in Australia before heading back to Thailand.

"I hope to see a lot of fans out there cheering us on!"

Making it an even more memorable festive season in the Jutanugarn household was Ariya’s win in the season-ending Tour Championship that vaulted her to fifth on the money list with almost $US1.55 million – despite, by her own lofty standards, having a flat second half of the season.

Ariya missed six cuts in a seven-tournament stretch after earlier having seven top-10s in her opening nine events and then winning the Manulife Classic in Canada mid-year.

Tournament director Trevor Herden said it was exciting for Thai golf to have two such strong winning chances at any tournament they play.

“Every time you looked last year, one of the Jutanugarn sisters was right near or at the top of the leaderboard,” he said.

“They both make a lot of birdies despite having different styles – I know there will be a strong fan base around Kooyonga for them both because they are both great entertainers.”

The Thai additions further bolsters a field that already has a host of superstars including former world No.1s So Yeon Ryu and Lydia Ko, two more fan favourites in Canadian Brooke Henderson and defending champion Ha Na Jang and American tour legend Cristie Kerr.

A record seven full Australian LPGA Tour members – led by Karrie Webb and Minjee Lee – also committed yesterday as the field continued to take shape.

“All these women obviously play great golf, but among their strongest assets is their ability to engage the fans,” Herden said.

“It’s a very exciting field we’re bringing together.”