Ariya Jutanugarn leading U.S. Women's Open golf championship by four strokes

Kristopher Nichols
June 7, 2018

Ariya Jutanugarn almost had a starring role in what could've gone down as one of the most spectacular falls in major championship history.

Not only does Ariya become the first Thai to win a US Women's Open title but she is the first champion from a country other than South Korea or the US since Sweden's Annika Sorenstam in 2006.

The outcome no one wanted to imagine after Jutanugarn built a seven-stroke lead after the front nine looked as if it was in deep plot development, inoculated from the best pre-shot routine any mental coach has ever prescribed. What followed could have been one of the most dramatic collapses in golf history.

Ariya used her prodigious power to muscle her favourite three-wood tee shots past Smith's drives with regularity, and displayed a deft short game in a round that included only one bogey. "So we had a really good lesson before Kingsmill (two weeks ago) and then I actually missed the cut but felt like I played really well".

"I forgot the bad things", she said. I feel comfortable on the greens which has been something that has been a little bit off.

Another bogey followed at the 12th.

As Jutanugarn started to struggle, Kim was applying pressure.

While Jutanugarn was fading, the 22-year-old Kim was rolling.

Kim missed her birdie opportunity at the 17th, but Jutanugarn found some trouble at the par-5 hole.

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Oh said her effort included "nothing outstanding" although she putted well and dealt calmly with the challenges of the soggy course. 17 and No. 18 dropped her into a tie for the lead with Kim.

She has a way to go, but nonetheless took delight at seeing her name atop the leaderboard the entire round.

Ariya does not carry a driver in her bag but has such power that she hits her three-wood further than most women do with the "big stick". Didn't hang her head in despair when she hit fliers out of the Bermuda rough. It worked, as she hit a superb approach to the par-three and sank the birdie.

Jutanugarn was at 6 under overall after four holes when play was halted. Kim's shot out of the bunker was decent, but Jutanugarn's was phenomenal, rolling to within a foot of the hole and setting up an easy par putt.

Jutanugarn and Kim shot 11-under 277 in regulation. Jutanugarn shot one-over 73.

Despite shooting 41 on the final nine, despite an opponent who gave no quarter until the fourth playoff hole when her putter finally ran out of magic, despite looking as if all her mojo was already gone to Mobile, Jutanugarn had a gold medal around her neck and a sliver trophy by her side Sunday evening.

On Monday at the CME Group Tour Championship last November, Jutanguarn told Nilsson and Marriott that it cost $350 to educate a child for an entire year at the schools she helps to fund.

"I feel like I want to inspire the kids", she said.

Heading into the playoff having blown a enormous lead, Jutanugarn refocused and recommitted. But she didn't stop believing.

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