Sat, Jun 02, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Ariya has impressive start, shares Women’s Open lead


Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn had to overcome an abbreviated practice round on Wednesday to fire a five-under-par 67 and grab a share of the opening-round lead at the rain-hit US Women’s Open on Thursday.

Ariya set the early pace in the morning session, mastering the sodden conditions to end the day in a three-way tie atop the leaderboard with Australia’s Sarah Jane Smith and South Korea’s Lee Jeong-eun (6).

Call it blind luck, or whatever you want, but Ariya got off to an impressive start at the major championship, despite not being able to practice on the front nine at all ahead of Thursday’s first round, because her clubs did not arrive with her flight.

“My golf bag didn’t come on Monday,” said Ariya, who like the rest of the field also saw practice rounds limited by heavy rain this week. “I played only nine holes yesterday. I played the back nine, so it was tough for me today, because I didn’t see the front.”

“I pretty much trust my caddie. I know he is going to do a good job, so I can trust him,” she added.

The rain at Alabama’s Shoal Creek course gave way to sunshine for the start of the first round.

Ariya, fresh from a superb victory at the Kingsmill Championship two weeks ago, took advantage to post five birdies and an eagle with two bogeys.

Ariya said her recent run of form was the result of intensive work on her short game.

She hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation and tallied only 28 putts across 18 holes.

Smith fired an eagle and five birdies with two bogeys to join the leading group.

Lee, who carries the number “6” alongside her name to distinguish her from five other South Korean golfers who share the same name, had five birdies without a bogey.

The trio were two shots in front of former US Open winner Michelle Wie, 18-year-old amateur Linn Grant of Sweden and American Danielle Kang.

Wie’s round included back-to-back birdies on her 11th and 12th holes, part of an error-free back nine display.

The 28-year-old from Hawaii said she was surprised at the condition of the course following a deluge earlier this week.

“It’s mind-blowing how great the golf course is,” Wie said. “The greens staff, they’ve been working day and night trying to get this golf course ready and have done an amazing job.”

World No. 1 Inbee Park headed a group on 12 players on 70 that also included Australia’s Su Oh, American Nelly Korda and Denmark’s Emily Pedersen.

“Today was a good putting day,” seven-time major championship winner Park said. “The golf course was actually much better than I expected.”

“You are going to get some mud balls around this golf course. I got a couple that was pretty bad and it hooked into trees and stuff like that. Everybody is in the same boat,” she added.

Taiwan’s Hsu Wei-ling carded a one-under 71 to finish in a group sharing 19th, while Chien Pei-yun’s one-over 73 landed her a share of 44th.

Kaohsiung-born Candie Kung of the US finished on five-over 77 and was likely to miss the projected cut at two-over.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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