Atthaya targets Open crown
World No.6 wants to emulate Ariya's feat
Teenage star Atthaya Thitikul hopes to become the second Thai to win the Women's British Open this week.
The year's fifth and final major of women's golf tees off today at Muirfield in Scotland.
Ariya Jutanugarn has won two major tournaments -- the 2016 Women's British Open and 2018 US Women's Open.
Patty Tavanakit is Thailand's only other major winner with her success at the 2021 ANA Inspiration.
Atthaya won the Smyth Salver as the low amateur at the Women's British Open in 2018 and 2019 and wants to follow in the footsteps of Ariya.
The 19-year-old is one of the fastest rising stars and is now Thailand's highest-ranked player at No.6.
She would like to add a major title to her burgeoning resume.
"I'm really hoping to emulate Ariya and bring the trophy to Thailand once more," said LPGA Tour rookie Atthaya, who won her breakthrough title earlier this year.
The Ratchaburi native credits the Jutanugarn sisters, Moriya and Ariya, as her inspiration.
"They [Ariya and Moriya] were already established on the LPGA Tour when I was taking up the sport and when Ariya won the AIG Women's Open [Women's British Open] that was a huge moment because it showed that it's possible for a girl like me to reach the pinnacle of the sport," Atthaya said.
In her last two majors, Atthaya was fourth at the Women's PGA Championship in June and joint eighth at the Evian Championship two weeks ago.
In the first two rounds at Muirfield, Atthaya will play alongside Evian Championship winner Brooke Henderson of Canada and American Lexi Thompson, another major champion.
World No.21 Patty will try to bounce back after missing the cut in three consecutive majors.
The 22-year-old also wants to be a role model for her young compatriots.
"It's great to be part of a wave of young women representing Thailand at the biggest championships, like the AIG Women's Open," said Patty, whose Thai name is Paphangkorn.
"We've had great role models and now it's our turn to keep the next wave of young girls at home inspired."
She is grouped with defending champion Anna Nordqvist of Sweden and 2021 US Women's Open winner Yuka Saso of Japan in the first two rounds.
Like Patty, Ariya has had an unconvincing season. The 26-year-old has played 16 tournaments this year with her best result being T12 at the Lotte Championship in May.
The 12-time LPGA winner has missed the cut in five events, including the US Women's Open and Evian Championship.
Apart from winning the title in 2016, Ariya also finished joint fourth in 2018 and tied 10th in 2021 at the Women's British Open.
In all, eight Thais are in the field at Muirfield this week -- Atthaya, Patty, Ariya, Moriya, Jasmine Suwannapura, Pajaree Anannarukarn, Wichanee Meechai and Chanettee Wannasaen.
'Best links course'
Nordqvist will defend the title she won at Carnoustie a year ago -- an ideal venue for someone whose Scottish husband grew up in the Dundee area.
"Carnoustie is a special place for me but it is just as special to be defending at Muirfield," said the 35-year-old three-time major winner.
"If someone had told me when I was growing up that one day I would win a British Open I would have said they were crazy. Winning the British was my childhood dream."
The first four of the year's five majors have produced winners from different countries in American Jennifer Kupcho (Chevron Championship), Australian Minjee Lee (US Open), South Korea's Chun In-Gee (PGA Championship) and Canada's Henderson (Evian Championship).
Two-time major winner Henderson is now relishing the chance of triumphing at successive majors.
"I think Muirfield is the best links course I have ever played," said the 24-year-old.