Ariya targets major breakthrough

Ariya targets major breakthrough

Thai seeks 4th win in a row at Women's PGA

Ariya 'Nong May' Jutanugarn: Thailand's latest sports star took a week off to sharpen her game ahead of this weekend's Women's PGA Championship, starting Thursday evening (Thailand time). (AFP photo)
Ariya 'Nong May' Jutanugarn: Thailand's latest sports star took a week off to sharpen her game ahead of this weekend's Women's PGA Championship, starting Thursday evening (Thailand time). (AFP photo)

Ariya Jutanugarn will be chasing her first major title and fourth consecutive LPGA win at the Women's PGA Championship which tees off Thursday evening.

The 20-year-old from Bangkok is in confident mood after claiming three titles last month.

She became the first Thai champion on the LPGA Tour with her triumph at the Yokohama Tire Classic and then secured two more wins at the Kingsmill Championship and Volvik Championship.

"My next goal is to win my first major title. I also want to become a top-five player in the world,'' said the world No.10.

Ariya came close to winning a major title at the ANA Inspiration in April when she held a two-stroke lead only to drop three shots in the final three holes to finish fourth, two shots behind winner Lydia Ko of New Zealand.

She has since bounced back, winning all three LPGA events last month.

"I made a lot of mistakes [at the ANA] and I learn from that. It teaches me a lot, like how to play under pressure,'' Ariya said.

"After that I just feel more and more comfortable to play golf and when I'm nervous I know how to deal with it."

She added: "I was never happy to play golf last year but right now I am really happy. No matter what the result is I'm just very happy with it.

"All I have to do is I have to be nice to myself. I do not complain about every single shot. I just try to be nice to myself. Even when I hit a bad shot, I just tell myself I hit this one good."

Ariya did not play last week to get ready for the Women's PGA Championship, the second major of the year, at the par-71, 6,624-yard Sahalee Country Club in Washington.

After a couple of practice rounds at the course, Ariya feels it is difficult for her.

"The golf course is so hard for me. It is too narrow and there are lots of trees," she said.

"It is in a great shape and the greens are so good. It is hard for me because I have to shape my shot a lot."

With narrow fairways and tough rough, the big-hitting Ariya, who is second on the money list, said she did not need her driver again this week.

"You have to keep the ball in the fairway. My caddie [Les Luark] helps me a lot. He knows my game and he told me not to use driver," she said.

She did not use driver when she won the Volvik Championship.

In the first two rounds, Ariya, who missed the cut at last year's edition, will play alongside American Paula Creamer and reigning champion Park In-Bee of South Korea.

Last year, world No.2 Park won by five shots to claim her third consecutive Women's PGA Championship, formerly the LPGA Championship.

Apart from Ariya, there are seven other Thais in the tournament including her older sister Moriya, Pornanong Phatlum, Nontaya Srisawang, Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras and Budsabakorn Sukapan.

Meanwhile, Ko will be seeking her third straight major title having won the 2015 Evian Championship and 2016 ANA Inspiration.

Ko missed the first and only cut of her career at the 2015 Women's PGA Championship.

With a win this week Ko will become the first player to win three consecutive majors since Park in 2013.

As for Park, she is the first player since Annika Sorenstam in 2005 to win the same major championship three consecutive times. No player, however, has won the same LPGA major championship four consecutive times.

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