Spec­tac­u­lar ea­gle keeps Thai on top

SundayXtra - - GOLF - By Larry Lage

ANN AR­BOR, Mich. — Ariya Ju­tanu­garn ended a shaky round spec­tac­u­larly, mak­ing a 15-foot ea­gle putt on the 18th hole Satur­day at Travis Pointe to take a one-stroke lead in the Volvik Cham­pi­onship.

Try­ing to be­come the first to win three straight LPGA Tour events since In­bee Park in 2013, the 20-year- old Ju­tanu­garn shot a 1- over 73 in the third round to reach 10-un­der 206. She be­came the first Thai win­ner in tour his­tory three weeks ago in Alabama and fol­lowed up last week with a vic­tory in Vir­ginia.

Fol­low­ing three straight pars, she teed off on the 500-yard, par-5 18th with a 3-wood and landed in the rough. From 220 yards, she hit an im­pres­sive 3-iron shot that went as planned. “Just go to the pin,” she said. Ju­tanu­garn shrugs off her stel­lar play, but is earn­ing praise from other play­ers.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble what she can do with the golf ball,” said Christina Kim, who was tied for sec­ond. “It’s just ab­surd. She is able to dom­i­nate re­ally any golf course with­out nec­es­sar­ily hit­ting driver on any hole.”

Kim shot a 72 to join Jes­sica Korda (70) at 9 un­der.

Brooke Hen­der­son of Smiths Falls, Ont., (72) was tied for ninth place, five shots back of the lead. Sa­man­tha Rich­dale of Kelowna, B.C., (75) and Que­bec City’s Anne Cather­ine Tan­guay (75) are the other Cana­di­ans in the field.

Korda said pin place­ments made Travis Pointe, a new venue on the LPGA Tour, play much tougher than it did the pre­vi­ous two days.

“They are tucked in a lot of places and the greens are just su­per firm,” she said. Stiffer wind was a fac­tor, too. “It’s very hard,” Ju­tanu­garn said. Hyo Joo Kim and Suzann Pet­tersen were 7 un­der, each shoot­ing 70. Topranked Ly­dia Ko was tied for 25th at 2 un­der af­ter a 72.

Ju­tanu­garn has been play­ing bet­ter than any woman on the planet lately.

Satur­day af­ter­noon, though, she fell back to the pack and then be­hind it with con­sec­u­tive bo­geys on Nos. 3, miss­ing a three-foot putt, and 4 and a third bo­gey to close the front nine. A bo­gey at No. 13 dropped her to 7 un­der and she birdied the next hole.

A freak ac­ci­dent was the only thing that slowed Ju­tanu­garn down three years ago as a teenage phe­nom.

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