Jutanugarn surges from no wins to stardom
Ariya Jutanugarn completed a first-ever season personally and for her home country’s burgeoning interest in golf last weekend when she won the Race to the CME Globe, the Rolex Player of the Year and the earnings title.
Jutanugarn, who turns 21 on Wednesday, began the season winless on the LPGA. When she faltered down the stretch at the ANA Inspiration, the season’s first major, there were continued doubts. However, Jutanugarn began to use a pre-shot routine of smiling and a more conservative approach on tee shots and that turned the season around – five wins, including Thailand’s first major title for a man or woman at the Ricoh Women’s British Open – as she was on the way to a stellar season. Jutanugarn won three consecutive events midway through the season and then two in a row two months later to become the winningest player of 2016.
Jutanugarn finished first in the following categories:
Official money: $2,550,928
Race to the CME Globe: 6,800 points
Rolex Player of the Year: 268 points
Top 10s: 16*
Sub-par holes: 475
*-Lydia Ko led the LPGA in top-10 percentage, 58 percent, by making 14 of 24. But, Jutanugarn (16) and Brooke Henderson (15) had more top-10s.
**-Broke the single-season record of 451, set by Stacy Lewis in 2014. Brooke Henderson also broke that mark, with 455.
They’re getting younger and better
Soon after winning the U.S. Women’s Open this summer, Brittany Lang was asked about being the veteran in the midst of the (very) youth movement on the LPGA. At the time, she was the first 30-year-old to win in 2016.
“That just sounds crazy to me,” Lang, 30, said. “We do have so many great players that are 30 and older. We have a ton of them. But the talent keeps getting younger and younger, and better and better, which is great for our tour.”
Lang finished the season as the only player age 30 and above to win a tournament. She was a full two years older than the next oldest winner (Anna Nordqvist, age 28). Here are some age statistics to consider:
- Oldest winner: Brittany Lang, U.S. Women’s Open, 30 years, 10 months, 18 days
- Youngest winner: Brooke Henderson, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, 18-9-2
- Winners in their 20s: 25
- Winners in their teens: 7
- Average age of winners: 22.3 years
Here is a comparison among the top five players in the world, women and men:
Rank, Player, Country - Age
1, Lydio Ko, New Zealand - 19
2, Ariya Jutanugarn, Thailand - 21
3, In Gee Chun, South Korea - 22
4, Shanshan Feng, China - 27
5, Lexi Thompson, U.S. - 21
1, Jason Day, Australia - 29
2, Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland - 27
3, Dustin Johnson, U.S. - 32
4, Henrik Stenson, Sweden – 40
5, Jordan Spieth, U.S. - 23
A statistical comparison
A look at how the 2016 LPGA and 2015-16 PGA Tour seasons compared in some of the top statistical categories:
|CATEGORY||LPGA (LEADER)||PGA TOUR (LEADER)|
|Avg. Winning Age||22.3||31|
18 years-9 months-2 days (Brooke Henderson)
21-1-24 (Si Woo Kim)
|Low 9||27 (Mi Hyang Lee)||27 (Jim Furyk)|
|Low 18||62 (10 times)||58 (Jim Furyk)|
|Stroke average||69.58 (In Gee Chun)||69.48 (Dustin Johnson)*|
|Greens in Regulation||78.6% (Anna Nordqvist)||71.63% (Lucas Glover)|
|Putting||28.31 (Lydia Ko)||27.82 (Jordan Spieth)|
|Driving Distance||281.37 (Joanna Klatten)||314.5 (J.B. Holmes)|
|Driving Accuracy||86% (Mo Martin)||73.3% (Colt Knost)|
|*-The Vardon Trophy on the PGA Tour is determined by adjusted scoring; this is the actual scoring average.|
Vare Trophy closest in 20-plus years
In Gee Chun had to birdie the last three holes to catch and pass Lydia Ko for the Vare Trophy, which goes to the player with the low stroke average on the season. Chun was second entering the week and needed to finish two strokes ahead of Ko. She placed .013 in front of Ko, who has never captured the Vare Trophy. The closest Vare Trophy competition since 1994 when Beth Daniel nipped Laura Davies by one stroke and .005 to capture the title.
Chun became only the second rookie to win the Vare Trophy, following Nancy Lopez in 1978. She also easily won the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year competition in a season where she was hampered by a lower back injury.
Chun needed the fast finish to not only beat Ko but three others. For the first time in LPGA history, five players averaged less than 70 during the season – Chun, Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, Shanshan Feng and Ha Na Jang.
There were 27 aces on the LPGA in 2016, far short of the record 37 scored in 1999 and 2001. But a handful of those aces were extremely special.
- Ha Na Jang holed out a 3-wood from 218 yards on the par-4 third hole in January at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic for the first par-4 ace in LPGA history. Two months later, Minjee Lee used a 5-wood to ace the 234-yard, par-4 16th hole at the Kia Classic. Both occurred in the third round. There have been 10 par-4 aces on major world tours (PGA Tour, Web.com Tour, European Tour and European Senior Tour).
- Xi Yu Lin (Honda LPGA Thailand), Cydney Clanton (JTBC Founders Cup) and Brooke Henderson (KPMG Women’s PGA Championship) all won cars with their aces on par 3s. Lin also made an ace at the women’s Olympic competition, the first ace in women’s Olympic golf history.
- MJ Hur, Pernilla Lindberg and Ayako Uehera were the only players to make multiple aces (2) this season in official events.
The two biggest winners of American golf events this week have something in common. Ariya Jutanugarn, the Race to CME Globe winner and LPGA Player of the Year, and Mackenzie Hughes, the winner of the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic on Monday morning, were both born on Nov. 23 (Wednesday). Jutanugarn turns 21 and Hughes 26. … Mo Martin hit 55 of 56 fairways in regulation at the CME Group Tour Championship last week and finished T4. Martin led the LPGA in Driving Accuracy (86 percent) for a fourth consecutive season. … Anna Nordqvist’s 78.6 percentage clip in Greens in Regulation was the best since Annika Sorenstam’s 78.8 percent in 2004. Sorenstam holds the record of 79.7 percent in 2001 and 2002. … Lydia Ko won the putting category for the first time in her career and also shot 62 twice, becoming the first player since Juli Inkster in 2003 to shoot multiple rounds of 62.