The people at Kingsmill Resort were astounded. Ariya Jutanugarn made not one, but two birdies on hole 18 in the playoff to ultimately upend both In Gee Chun and Nasa Hataoka.
“Nobody birdies 18”
That’s the conversation that all the staffers were having after the playoff. Ariya is a little different than most.
In 12 starts this year – yes no breaks – Jutanugarn now has eight top 10 finishes. She’s ridiculous, machine-like. She now leads the LPGA in official money earned, Race to the CME Globe points and Rolex Player of the Year points.
You know what the conversation was like outside, now here is what the chatter was inside the media center.
“How is she so calm on the golf course with seemingly so much on the line?”
Jutanugarn was seen rubbing the shoulders of her caddie, Les Luark, late on the back nine and her mom was even playing with her hair at one point while waiting for a shot.
“I did feel the pressure, but not that much,” said Jutanugarn when the inquisitive media wondered how she appeared so relaxed. “If one of them makes birdie, great. It means I don't have to go to playoff. I mean, I want to give me a chance to have like playoff, but it's good for them, you know?”
She was clamoring for a win, yes, but she said when she racks her brain with “when am I going to win” thoughts, she doesn’t play well.
Jutanugarn made six birdies over her first 11 holes to storm into contention. Eight birdies on the day if you include the playoff holes. She's a special talent and with a carefree attitude, there isn't much that can stop her.
She’s More Than a 20-Letter Last Name
Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong stiffed her approach shot to a foot on 18 and tapped in to put a ribbon on a 5-under, 66 on Sunday to finish in a tie for seventh, the best result of her career.
Watch out for the 2016 Symetra Tour graduate, she now has two top 10 finishes in her last four starts.
She started the year a bit slow with back-to-back missed cuts, but things are coming around for the young Thai golfer with the nickname of “Champagne”.Don’t count Santiwiwatthanaphong out for the UL International Crown either. Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn are locks for Team Thailand, Pornanong Phatlum seems like a virtual lock, but the fourth spot on that team could be up for grabs over the next month.
The Lefty Can Play
Katelyn Dambaugh – one of the very few left-handed players on the LPGA – had her career best finish this weekend at the Kingsmill Championship. She turned in rounds of 68-68 over the first two days and despite a double-bogey on Sunday, she carded a 2-under, 69 and finished T10 to earn a nice paycheck of $21,773.
Dambaugh is a 2017 Symetra Tour graduate. She arrived on the scene after graduating from South Carolina just before the summer and immediately made her presence felt on the qualifying tour.
She has made four cuts in eight starts on the LPGA this year.
It’s always interesting to look at how young players perform after making a cut. Dambaugh went 80-80 after making the cut in San Francisco and finished at the tail end of the money. Much different story in Virginia and that’s a sign of a player starting to feel more comfortable.
In Gee Chun Has Eyes on Another U.S. Open
In Gee Chun held the 36 hole lead at 11-under, but was fairly quiet early on Sunday in comparison to her pursuers. Chun made two birdies and a bogey on the front nine.
Meanwhile, Austin Ernst made four birdies in a row to start, Nasa Hataoka made three birdies on the front nine and Ariya Jutanugarn made six birdies on her first 11 holes.
No panic from Chun. She made key birdies late in the round including a long one on 17 to get into the playoff. Despite falling short, she was pleased.
“I thought it was a good comeback,” said Chun. “I got more confidence from here and I’m also ready to go to the U.S. Women’s Open.”
Chun won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2015, which was basically her membership ticket onto the LPGA.
“It was my dream come true (to win),” recalled Chun on Sunday. “It always feels a little different than a normal tournament.”
While she has no wins this year, Chun has finished inside the top 12 in her last two starts. She'll take this week off to prepare.
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