Ariya Jutanugarn wants to win this week’s Women’s PGA Championship, but not in the manner she captured last month’s US Women’s Open. The 22-year-old squandered a seven-shot lead over the final nine holes, and then survived in a playoff to become victorious at the US Women’s Open.
Avoiding that drama, and winning in a more conventional fashion, would be perfectly acceptable to Jutanugarn. The golfer from Thailand is the 12/1 favorite to win this week at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in the Chicago area.
“I think the main key for me this year is just, I never think about the outcome, and I feel like when I think about the outcome, it’s not really helping me to be a better golfer because I start to get worried,” Jutanugarn said. “I start to thinking about the things like I can’t control.”
From Tragedy to Triumph
Jutanugarn certainly seemed a bit out of control in the final round of the US Women’s Open. After building what looked like an insurmountable lead heading into the back nine, it started unraveling. A triple bogey on No. 10, and three bogeys, resulted in a 5-over 41 and a tie with Hyo-Joo Kim.
The two remained tied after a two-hole playoff, and then Jutanugarn prevailed on the second hole of sudden death after her second consecutive bunker save.
“I feel really proud of myself because I still fight all the way to finish,” Jutanugarn said. “Even though I have really poor back nine, but my playoff I fight every shot, and I learned a lot. I feel like if I won by five strokes, I’m not going to learn anything, but that week I learned a lot.”
Other players are quickly learning Jutanugarn has become a force on the tour. She finished tied for fourth at the ANA Inspiration, the tour’s first major, and is ranked No. 1 in top 10s, scoring average, eagles, birdies, and rounds in the 60s.
Lexi Thompson Could Challenge
One golfer who has been playing arguably better than Jutanugarn the last month is Lexi Thompson. The 23-year-old, who is at 16/1, tied for fifth at the US Women’s Open, and has two top 10s in her last two events, including a tie for third at last week’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
Thompson, who has won a major, and finished tied for seventh here last year, said being ranked second in greens in regulation should help her at this course.
“Usually major championships it’s more about accuracy,” Thompson said. “Usually the rough is grown up a little thicker than normal, greens are a little quicker, so it’s just important. Length never hurts, but it’s all a matter of keeping it in the fairways, giving yourself the best shot at the greens and leaving yourself the best putts.”
Another player who should take advantage of the tougher conditions is InBee Park, who is at 20/1. The seven-time major championship winner, has proven she has the game for this event, winning in 2015. She finished ninth at this year’s US Women’s Open, and has won already on tour this year.