Sun, May 29, 2016 - Page 18 News List

Ariya grabs LPGA lead in bid for third consecutive victory


Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand plays a shot during the LPGA Volvik Championship at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Friday.

Photo: AFP

Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, seeking her third consecutive victory this month, fired a four-under 68 to seize a two-shot lead after the second round of the LPGA Volvik Championship on Friday.

The 20-year-old from Bangkok, who opened with a 65 on Thursday, remained bogey free through 36 holes to stand on 11-under 133 in the inaugural edition of the event at Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“Today was pretty good,” Ariya said. “I did not hit my iron that good, but still OK, and I started to make some putts on the back nine.”

South Korea’s Ryu So-yeon and Americans Marina Alex and Christina Kim shared second on 135, with Italy’s Giulia Molinaro and Americans Jessica Korda and Brittany Lincicome next on 137.

Ariya became the first Thai player to win an LPGA event when she captured the Yokohama Tire Classic and followed up by capturing the Kingsmill Championship last week.

A victory this week would make Ariya the first LPGA player to win three events in a row since South Korean Inbee Park in 2013, but the rising Thai star is trying not to ponder that possibility yet.

“Right now, I am really happy with it and I really enjoy playing golf right now, so I am not thinking about [wining or losing]” Ariya said. “I want to just have fun and keep playing good.”

Ariya parred the entire front nine in the second round before starting the back nine with a birdie. She added birdies at the par-three 12th and par-five 14th holes to seize the lead, then closed with a birdie at the par-five 18th to double her margin at the top.

After rising as high at 15th in the world before shoulder surgery in 2013 sidelined her for eight months, Ariya stumbled as low as 124th in the rankings, but has now battled back to 13th.

Alex, never better than ninth in an LPGA event in her fourth tour season, shot 67 to stay among the leaders.

“I have been making a tonne of swing changes in the off-season and now they are starting to feel more comfortable,” Alex said. “Everything is starting to feel like it is mine and I own it.”

Kim fired a 71 after opening with a sizzling 64 to seize the 18-hole lead.

“Everything was great, just the ball was not in the hole,” Kim said. “It was not like I was backing off putts after I hit them trying to figure out how I missed the break or anything like that.”

“It was just a matter of just burning the edges and just, I mean, not even really being a degree off. So I am still very confident going into the weekend,” she added.

Ryu seeks her first win since 2014 and has three top-10 efforts in her past four events.

“The final round was not good enough to get the trophies, so I was really disappointed, but the good thing is I just kept in contention, kept fighting. I really want to keep my positive mind until Sunday,” Ryu said.

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