Monday, May 30, 2016

Ariya Jutanugarn captures Volvik LPGA 

Championship for third straight win

Ariya Jutanugarn
Ariya Jutanugarn (Getty Images)
Ariya Jutanugarn certainly has learned how to finish. The 20-year-old Thai put the gas pedal down Sunday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, birdieing four of her last six holes to win the inaugural Volvik LPGA Championship by five strokes.
Jutanugarn became the first player in LPGA history to win her first three titles consecutively. After collapsing down the stretch against Lydia Ko at the ANA Inspiration on April 3, Jutanugarn has rattled off victories in Alabama, Virginia and now Michigan.
“She made it look so easy,” Jessica Korda said of Jutanugarn’s putting at Travis Pointe Country Club.
Korda, who finished six strokes back in a tie for third, said Jutanugarn’s 3-wood goes about the same distance as her driver. On Saturday, Jutanugarn closed the round with a 3-iron, from the rough, to 15 feet and made eagle to maintain the lead.
“To be honest, first time I see it, I think this course is hard and I don’t think I’m going to win,” said Jutanugarn, who felt handicapped leaving driver out of the bag.
Things worked out just fine. Jutanugarn, who goes by the nickname “May,” closed with 67 to finish at 15-under 273, leaving good friend Christina Kim in the dust. Fittingly, all three of Jutanugarn’s victories came in the month of May.
When Korda was asked whether she detected any nerves down the stretch from Jutanugarn, Korda said that Jutanugarn actually looked bored.
“She sat down on like 16th tee and 18th tee,”  Korda said, “chilling in the shade. Told me to come sit down next to her like we were having a picnic.”
Earlier this spring before the JTBC Founders Cup, Jutanugarn and her sister, Moriya, met with Vision54 mental coaches Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“Seeing May the first time, it’s striking for everybody,” Nilsson said. “Oh, my God, just the ballstriking.”
They spent a half-day getting to know one another, and then the two sisters attended Vision54’s three-day golf school. They worked on her commitment to shots, her post-shot reactions and the area they call the think box/play box.
One thing was certain, they felt: “We needed to be careful and not mess with all the natural golf intelligence that is in her,” said Nilsson, noting the beauty in Jutanugarn’s ability to keep things simple.
In talking with Jutanugarn about her performance on Sunday at the ANA, Marriott said they began to realize she had never really unpacked what had happened to her in 2013, when she suffered a similar blowup against Inbee Park in Thailand.
“We’ve really helped her learn how to reflect on it in a way that it’s a learning opportunity,” Marriott said.
When the nerves spiked, Jutanugarn had tried to focus on keeping the same routine. Nilsson and Marriott, however, explained that in those times it’s important to focus on slower tempo and less tension in the shoulders. Find a go-to shot that feels comfortable.
“When your state totally changes,” Nilsson said, “you need to change your game plan.”
Jutanugarn became the first player since Inbee Park in 2013 to win three consecutive tournaments.
“My goal is win my first major,” she said.
Call it convenient then that Jutanugarn’s next event is the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, to be held June 9-12 at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash.
“She’s going to be unstoppable,” Kim said. “We haven’t even been able to scratch the surface of what she’s been able to do.”