Ariya Jutanugarn won the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open with a par on the fourth playoff hole over Hyo-Joo Kim at Shoal Creek, Alabama today, for her second major championship and her ninth career victory on the LPGA Tour. It was harder than it had to be for Jutanugarn, who built a big lead on the front nine only to see it dwindle away on the back, but the 22-year old from Thailand was able to finish the job in the end. Jutanugarn became the first player from Thailand to win a USGA Championship.
Jutanugarn Builds Huge Lead on the Front Nine
Jutanugarn got off to a quick start again today, birdieing the first hole for the third day in a row to extend her lead to five shots over Sarah Jane Smith, who made par. When both players made bogey at the second, Hyo-Joo Kim, who began the day in third place at 6-under par, passed Smith with a birdie at the third, her second birdie of the day, to get to within four of Jutanugarn. A birdie at the third put Jutanugarn five ahead again, and Smith also knocked in a birdie putt there to pull herself back into a tie with Kim. Jutanugarn then birdied the fifth hole to get to 14-under par and push her lead to six, but then Kim birdied the sixth, putting her at 9-under par to cut Jutanugarn’s lead back to five again.
Carlota Ciganda birdied three of her first seven holes to climb to 7-under par, putting her in a tie for third when Smith made bogey at the 6th hole, where Jutanugarn made birdie, extending her lead to back up to six again. Smith would then make birdie at the 8th to pull into third place alone, one stroke ahead of Ciganda. Jutanugarn then made birdie at the 9th hole to pull ahead by seven at the turn with a score of 16-under par, and Smith made bogey at the same hole to fall back into a tie for third place with Ciganda, who then made birdie at the 11th hole, moving her back ahead of Smith into third place.
The Back Nine Tells a Different Tale
Starting the back nine by hitting her tee shot at the 10th hole into a hazard, Jutanugarn took four shots to get to the green, where she missed badly on her first attempt, three-putting for a triple bogey seven and dropping her to 13-under par, cutting her lead down to four strokes. Ciganda would make bogey at 12, dropping her back into a tie for third with Smith again at 7-under par. Kim would make a long birdie putt at 12 to get to 10-under par and three back, and when Jutanugarn later made bogey at the same hole, her lead was down to two.
Smith would make a double bogey at 11 and a bogey at 12 to fall three shots behind third-place Ciganda, and alone in fourth place. Ciganda would eventually finish at 7-under for the championship and secure third place, while Smith would shoot 41 on the back nine and fall into a tie for fifth place. Kim would roll in another long birdie from off the green at the 15th hole to pull herself to 11-under par, just one shot behind Jutanugarn. Jutanugarn would make a birdie at 16 to get back to 13-under par and a two shot lead, however she then made a bogey at the 17th to fall back to 12-under par and take a one shot lead to the 72nd hole.
Kim, playing just ahead of Jutanugarn, with mud on her ball while playing her second shot into the green, played out to the right side of the green, safely avoiding the water on the left. Kim two-putted for par and finished with a bogey-free 5-under par 67, to post 11-under par and a total of 277 . Jutanugarn, however pulled her second shot left into the bunker, and was unable to get it up and down for par and finished the final round with a 1-over par 73 and tied with Kim at 11-under par.
A Playoff for the Championship
The players would contend in a two-hole aggregate playoff that would begin on the 14th hole, and from there move to the 18th. Kim hit the fairway on the first playoff hole, but Jutanugarn’s ball would find the rough. Kim put her second shot on the left side of the green about 25 feet away, but Jutanugarn dug her shot out of the rough and finished inside Kim about 12 feet away. But Kim would make her putt and put the pressure back on Jutanugarn, who then missed her birdie to fall one shot behind Kim.
On the second playoff hole, Kim drove first, hitting it down the right side of the fairway, while Jutanugarn would take an iron off the tee and missed the fairway in the left rough. Jutanugarn would play first, hitting her second shot over the green, and then Kim hit her second into the front left bunker that Jutanugarn had been in earlier. Kim played from the bunker, coming up short, and leaving herself about 20 feet for far, then Jutanugarn played her third, leaving about 7 feet. Kim came up just short with her par, giving Jutanugarn a chance to tie, which she did by knocking her putt in.
Action would then move back to the 14th, and play would continue at sudden death. Jutanugarn would again hit her tee shot with an iron, again pulling it left into the rough, and Kim would again put her tee shot in the fairway. From the rough, Jutanugarn hit her second shot into a bunker and Kim put her shot onto the green about 25 feet away for birdie. Jutanugarn played her third out of the bunker to within four feet, and then Kim just missed her birdie putt for the win. Both players would make their par putts to tie the hole and play would continue on, moving to the 18th hole again.
At the 18th, Jutanugarn would finally hit a fairway, and Kim would do the same. Kim hit her second shot into a bunker on the right this time, and then Jutanugarn hit hers into the back right bunker. Kim hit a nice shot out of the bunker, although she was left with about 15 feet for par. Jutanugarn played a beautiful shot out of the back bunker to within two feet and when Kim missed her par putt to the left, Jutanugarn tapped in her putt to win the championship.
Round of the Day
The round of the day had to be the 5-under par 67 that was turned in by Hyo-Joo Kim. Kim’s round consisted of five birdies and no bogeys, bringing her from six shots back at the start of her round, and seven down at the turn, to the brink of the championship. The 67 was the best round of the day by two shots, and came with all the pressure of Sunday at the Open, on a day when just four players shot better than 70 and only 14 were able to break par.
Danielle Kang shot a 3-under par 69 to finish at 3-under par for the championship and fourth place alone. Lexi Thompson had it to 5-under par through 15 holes, but a bogey on 16 and a double bogey on 17 left her with a 2-under par 70 for the day, and at 2-under par for the championship, tied with Smith, Wei-Ling Hsu, and low amateur Patty Tavatanakit for fifth place. Inbee Park had a disappointing 75 and finished in ninth place at 1-under par for the championship. Michelle Wie shot 71 to finish at even par and tied for tenth place, while Angela Stanford and Nelly Korda also tied for tenth at even par.
The LPGA Tour moves to Galloway, New Jersey, for the ShopRite LPGA Classic, at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club for a three day, 54-hole event starting Friday, June 8th. The next major championship for the women begins on June 28, with the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, which will be held at Kemper Lakes Golf Club, in Kildeer, Illinois.