Driver-less Ariya iron-willed for ti­tle de­fense

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

ST ANDREWS, Scot­land — Ariya Ju­tanu­garn may be fight­ing a cold, but mem­o­ries of her women’s Bri­tish Open win are keep­ing her warm as she pre­pares for her ti­tle de­fense at Kings­barns this week.

The 21-year-old from Thai­land won the ma­jor by three shots over the tree-lined Woburn course last year, and knows she faces a vastly dif­fer­ent chal­lenge on the windswept Scot­tish links.

But one thing won’t change from 12 months ago. There will be no driver in her bag.

The pow­er­ful young­ster, who didn’t use the game’s big­gest weapon last year, said: “This time it will also stay in the locker. I’ ll be us­ing my 3-wood and my 2-iron from the tee.

“This is only my third time at a links course, but I know I’ ll have to keep the ball low and some­times aim 50 yards right or 40 yards left.”

Ju­tanu­garn spent a brief spell as world No 1 when she won the Man­ulife LPGA Clas­sic in Cam­bridge, On­tario, last month.

But she has since strug­gled slightly with a shoul­der in­jury and has dropped to No 3 be­hind Ryu So-yeon and Lexi Thomp­son.

“It’s get­ting bet­ter, but I’ve now got a ter­ri­ble cold,” she said, cough­ing and splut­ter­ing. “It started on Satur­day and has got­ten worse.”

She ad­mits her life has changed dra­mat­i­cally since be­com­ing the first Thai golfer to win a ma­jor.

“Ev­ery­one back home is very proud,” she said. “I won an award at the end of the year and now knows me.”

This is her first visit to St Andrews, the Scot­tish town re­garded as the birth­place of golf. ev­ery­one

Her sis­ter Moriya, who played in the Women’s Bri­tish Open over the Old Course four years ago, has been the per­fect tour guide.

“It is a very special place and it’s cool to be here,” said the five-time LPGA win­ner. “My sis­ter took me around the 17 th and 18th at the Old Course. It was ev­ery­thing that I ex­pected.”

Olympic cham­pion Park In-bee, who won the ti­tle and com­pleted a ca­reer grand slam of the ma­jors at Turn­berry two years ago, is aim­ing to make it a Scot­tish dou­ble.

Park missed last year’s Open due to in­jury, but bounced back to win Olympic gold in Rio.

“It’s good to be back,” said the 29-year-old South Korean. “I played in the Scot­tish Open at Dun­don­ald last week and took a trip back to Turn­berry. I had some great mem­o­ries.

“My strik­ing is not where I want it to be, but I al­ways love the chal­lenge of a links course. Some­times I play well, and some­times I don’t get it. It’s a mind­set. You have to be pre­pared to be frus­trated.”

The seven-time ma­jor win­ner spent over a year as world No 1 in 2013-14, but she is cur­rently at No 10.

The Rio ex­pe­ri­ence has helped el­e­vate her sta­tus.

“Peo­ple in restau­rants and gas sta­tions say they know me be­cause of the Olympics,” she said. “It was an in­com­pa­ra­ble ex­pe­ri­ence. Some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent and it ranks right up there with the very best that I have achieved.”

Ariya Ju­tanu­garn

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