Jutanugarn earns four-stroke lead at U.S. Women's Open

Sarah Jane Smith

Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site. This wasn't the same Ariya Jutanugarn who tripled the final hole at home in Thailand as a 17-year-old. But she didn't stop believing.

Finally, after an excruciating few hours of golf, the positive vibes came true.

But Jutanugarn regrouped to claim her second major championship title with a par save from a bunker at the fourth hole of their playoff.

Going to the 18th for the final playoff hole both Kim and Jutanugarn missed the green. It was that sense of goal that allowed her to push through her disastrous finish and end the playoff strong. I'm rooting for everyone because if I'm going to win the tournament, I don't want to win because another player didn't play good.

"Actually, I wasn't keeping up with the score at the time so I didn't really know about it".

"She rolls the ball beautifully". She won the U.S. Women's Open in 2014.

First round leader Ariya Juanugarn (-5) started her second 18 at 1:15 p.m. local time. Returning to the 18th, Jutanugarn went over the green while Kim found a bunker. But the Thai star survived long enough to defeat Hyo Joo Kim on the fourth playoff hole Sunday at the U.S. Women's Open. The format then switched to sudden death, alternating between the same holes.

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South Korea's Kim closed with a five-under 67 to force the playoff and had two long putts to win in the extra session but couldn't get them to fall. But Kim made bogey - her first of the day - on 18 while Jutanugarn made par again to send the format to sudden death. Such things don't disappear at once, but Jutanugarn played a terribly sloppy 10th hole, hitting her trusty and powerful 3-wood into a creek.

"I hope to show up like it's another day", said Smith, whose husband, Duane, is her caddie.

Smith carded a second straight 5-under 67 to move into 10 under at the Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club in Alabama.

"After you have seven-shot lead and end up in playoff, I had no expectation because I kind of got mad a little bit with my back nine". Her confidence shaken, she had another bogey on 12 and the tournament was suddenly much closer than anyone expected. Kim, also 22, just kept plugging away, the way Casper did 52 years ago.

Despite losing her big lead, Jutanugarn says she wasn't feeling nervous going to the two-hole playoff. She is still chasing Smith, along with everyone else. "I just want to go out and be proud of myself every day", Jutanugarn said. "So after that I'm not really hit 3-wood anymore".

Ariya was among 78 players who got up at the break of dawn to return to the course early Saturday to complete their rain-hit second rounds.

Ariya has eight LPGA victories in the past two years, including a major at the 2016 Women's British Open.

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