Jutanugarn wins 73rd U.S. Women’s Open despite losing 7-shot lead

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

NORTH SHELBY – Despite losing a seven shot lead on the back nine, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn was able to win her second major championship in the last three years after taking down Hyo-Joo Kim with a par on the fourth playoff hole to claim the 73rd U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek Golf Club on Sunday, June 3.

“I’m really proud of myself,” she said with a sigh of relief and a smile after the historic win. “I feel great and am really excited and honored to join the list of winners before me.”

Jutanugarn came into the day with a four-stroke lead over Sarah Jane Smith and a six-stroke lead on Kim, and looked as if she was going to have a simple victory lap after making five birdies on the front nine to shoot a 32 and take a seven-shot lead on Kim.

“I did everything I wanted to do on the front-9,” she said. “I was really committed and didn’t think about the outcome of the tournament then.”

Once the front-9 came to an end, however, that’s when things got interesting.

While Kim started the back side with three consecutive pars, Jutanugarn triple bogeyed the par-4 10th hole after hitting her drive into the water, which all of a sudden brought Kim to within four shots.

The big part of that hole that got into Jutanugarn’s head was her drive, which bothered her the rest of the day. After the round, she admitted that she lost confidence in hitting the 3-wood off the tee, which she solely hits along with her 2-iron.

“After that I kind of played a little bit scared to hit my 3-wood,” she said. “I still wanted to be aggressive, but I was scared to hit the 3-wood so I was limited to a 2-iron, so of course I could not be aggressive.”

It was still a long uphill battle for Kim, but there was an opening for her to sneak back into the golf tournament with some birdies down the stretch thanks to Jutnaugarn’s lack of confidence in the 3-wood, which limited her to a 2-iron off the tee.

Kim’s spark started on the 12th hole when she was able to make a birdie on what had been the toughest hole all week.

Meanwhile, Jutanugarn bogeyed that same hole, which all of a sudden had Kim to within two strokes.

The nerves seemed to calm down a little bit for Jutanugarn after that, but Kim was still hot on her trail.

On No. 15, the scoreboard still stood the same and that’s when Kim made things more interesting than they had been since early in the third round. After missing the green to the left on 15, Kim found herself with a long putt of close to 50 feet.

From just off the green, she was able to leave the flagstick in and sent the putt tracking towards the hole. After the smoot rolling putt rolled 50 feet perfectly on line, she sank it for an improbable birdie that brought her to within a stroke.

“I wasn’t keeping up with the score, but when I made that putt, I felt that maybe the luck was with me today,” Kim said with a laugh knowing the outcome.

She ended up paring the last three holes to finish regulation at 11-under par, but had given everything she had to take down a seemingly impossible task at the start of the day.

Jutanugarn answered back, however, with a birdie of her own on No. 16, after hitting one of the closest shots of the day on the 210-yard par 3.

With a two stroke lead and two holes to play, including a par 5, it again looked like her championship.

Jutanugarn was unable to get up and down on both the par-5 17th and the par-4 18th, and bogeyed both of those holes to end 72 holes in an 11-under tie with Kim.

That set up a two-hole aggregate playoff on holes 14 and 18.

The momentum shifts continued in the playoff as Jutanugarn hit it closer on the 14th hole, but pared, while Kim was further from the hole and drained a long birdie putt to take the early advantage.

On the second playoff hole, however, Kim quickly gave the momentum back when she bogeyed and Jutanugarn pared.

With both still tied, it forced a sudden death playoff.

The two players pared the 14th hole to continue the playoff back to the 18th one last time.

After good drives, both players still managed to end up in greenside bunkers—Jutanugarn in a bunker long and right, and Kim in a bunker well short and right.

Kim faced about a 30-yard bunker shot with water behind the hole and left her shot wisely short of the hole, but about 15 feet away. Jutanugarn, on the other hand, was able to put her shot within three feet, which set up an easy tap in.

Kim went on to miss her putt by just a couple of inches, which allowed Jutanugarn to tap in for the win and become the winner of the 73rd U.S. Women’s Open.

After exclaiming her exhaustion after the first three rounds, Jutanugarn had a different feel on Sunday night.

“I’m not really tired after that outcome,” she said with a chuckle.

She then said her celebration was going to be to pack because tomorrow she is headed home to Thailand before then giving a message to her home town in Thai thanking her fans.

Jutanugarn was already the fifth ranked player in the world and one of the most popular players on the LPGA Tour and in her home country of Thailand, but after winning the 73rd playing of the U.S Women’s Open, she has hit an entirely new level of popularity.