Ariya closing in on historic victory
PATTAYA : Teenage sensation Ariya Jutanugarn Saturday fired a two-under-par 70 in the third round of the Honda LPGA Thailand to move closer to becoming the first Thai to win an official event on the women's top circuit.
- Published: 24/02/2013 at 12:00 AM
- Newspaper section: topstories
LEADER: Ariya Jutanugarn after the third round of the Honda LPGA Thailand event in Pattaya. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)
Three shots behind overnight leader Stacy Lewis after two rounds, the 17-year-old made five successive birdies from the 10th hole in a round that included seven birdies, three bogeys and a ninth-hole double bogey.
At the US$1.5 million event, Ariya's overall 11-under 205 was three strokes ahead of American Lewis, South Korea's Pak Se Ri and Beatriz Recari of Spain
It was also a day of sweet revenge for the 17-year-old Ariya, who was turned down for a tour card by the LPGA last year because she was not old enough.
Instead, she played at qualifying school in Europe to earn her tour ticket - and get a chance at revenge on the LPGA.
(The LPGA online scoreboard does not even provide a photo of Ariya on her player's page - possibly the only top player in the tournament getting that treatment.)
The lead could have been bigger had she not suffered two straight bogeys on the last two holes at Siam Country Club's Old Course.
Playing in the same group, world No.3 Lewis was unable to hold off the young Thai as the American finished with a disappointing four-over 76 for 208.
Lewis, the 2012 LPGA player of the year, faded badly on the back nine and finished with three consecutive bogeys.
"I am satisfied with the round although I made some silly mistakes. I was lucky that Stacy did not play well," said Ariya, who won the American Junior Golf Association's player of the year award twice, in 2011 and 2012.
"I made poor chips the whole day and that is what I need to improve if I want to win the title."
Ariya made the turn at 37 with a first-hole birdie and a double bogey at the ninth to remain three strokes behind Lewis, who also shot a 37 with two birdies and one bogey.
The Thai immediately bounced back from the ninth-hole setback with five straight birdies from the 10th before bogeying the 15th. She birdied the 16th and then dropped a shot at each of the final two holes.
A member of the Ladies European Tour after her win at the qualifying school, Ariya is playing in her fifth Honda LPGA Thailand event but her first as a professional.
"I will be under pressure tomorrow (Sunday) because I will not only be playing for myself and my family but also for all Thai fans," said Ariya, who is the first Thai to lead the Honda tournament.
"The fans have given me huge support and I want to win the title for them."
If she wins today, she will be the first Thai winner in an official LPGA event. Pornanong Phatlum won the 2012 Brazil Cup on the LPGA Tour, a 36-hole unofficial event with 15 players.
As for the 28-year-old Lewis, she managed only one birdie on the back nine, where she made four bogeys.
The 2011 Kraft Nabisco champion was not available for comment after her disappointing round.
Recari, who made the cut in every LPGA tournament last year, said she was pleased with her performance, considering the conditions were more difficult than the first two rounds.
"The wind was definitely a factor," she said afterward.
"On the front nine the pins were in tricky positions and the greens seemed fast on the back nine, so with the wind blowing, I think level par today is a good score."
Three shots behind the leader, Recari believes she is in with a good chance.
"I'm really confident for tomorrow," the Spaniard said.
Two-time defending champion Tseng Yani hit a 72 for 215, leaving her 10 shots off the pace, while Thai amateur Supamas Saengchan shot a second straight 74 for 221 total.
Compatriot Moriya Jutanugarn, who was tied for fourth in the season-opening Women's Australian Open last week, was five strokes further down on 226 following a woeful 80.
Numa Gulyanamitta (81) stayed tied for 67th on 229, three strokes ahead of Cheyenne Wood (76), who was last on 232.
About the author
- Writer: Kittipong Thongsombat
- Position: Reporter