Spectacular eagle keeps Thai on top
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.