LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla – Moriya Jutanugarn wasn’t exactly ready for the season to start, but she jumped in anyway.
And she’s glad she did.
Sunday, Jutanugarn recorded a top 5 finish in her season debut at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. The Thai wasn’t sure her game was ready for competitive play, much less a top 10, after what she saw last week practicing with her instructor Chris Mayson. But she was pleasantly surprised at the result.
“I’m pretty happy with how I finish and I think it’s because I have no expectations,” Jutanugarn told LPGA.com on Sunday. “I wasn’t quite ready to start the tournament, but it is a good warm up.”
Jutanugarn’s hot start comes with a new perspective. She spent six years aspiring to win for a first time on the LPGA Tour. The wait came to an end in April 2018 when the older of the two Jutanugarn sisters broke through for her maiden win on Tour. She racked up seven other top 10s over the course of the year and, like so many players, continued looking for ways to improve her game. That meant figuring out what’s next for her career.
“That’s a real challenge for me,” Jutanugarn said. “You have your first goal and you’re really clear with your goal and only doing something towards that goal. Now it’s a challenge because I have to think about what is next, what is important for me and what I feel like I really want to do.”
While she might not have a clear understanding of that next step, she has already started making changes towards becoming a better player.
During the Summer of 2018 Jutanugarn parted with instructor Gary Gilchrist and started working with Chris Mayson. For the last six months, the pair has focused on shifting her downswing away from a steep, out-to-in plane. Jutanguarn continues to struggle with the change.
“We’re trying to get away from I have to think about it, to it automatically happening,” Jutanugarn said. “It’s actually quite a big change for me since I started to play golf, but I’m really happy I decided to do it.”
She is happy she decided to play this week, too. The atmosphere of the new season-opener, which paired pros with celebrities, provided a welcome distraction from her game. During the week, she played alongside actor Alfonso Ribiero, singer Cole Swindell and the NFL’s Sterling Sharpe.
“I don’t have to worry about getting my practice as much and worry about how I’m going to do,” Jutanugarn said. “To come out and join with celebrities and fans and everything was cool because it gets you going again starting another season.”
Sunday, the one-week diversion came to an end. Monday, her work resumes not only on her swing but also the search within her soul for what she wants next to achieve.
“It’s hard to do, but I’m getting close.”