For the first time in her young LPGA career, Ariya Jutanugarn will be announced as “defending champion” when she steps to the tee on Thursday at the Kingmill Championship Presented by JTBC.
Ariya captured the 2016 Kingsmill Championship for her second career victory; however, this is her first title defense as the Yokohama Tire Classic, site of her first LPGA victory the week prior, is no longer on the Tour schedule.
“I have a great memory here last year,” said the 21-year-old from Thailand, who is in her third season on Tour. “I like everything here. I love to come back here. I love the course. The course always in a great shape.”
Jutanugarn followed her 2016 Kingsmill win with yet another victory the next week at the LPGA Volvik Championship, and she tacked on titles at the RICOH Women’s British Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to round out her breakthrough 2016 with five wins. Though she has come close, she hasn’t been able to get back to the winner’s circle since that August day in Canada, earning 14 top-10 finishes in the 18 events since that win (including three runner-up finishes this year).
While coming so close and not getting the win might prove difficult to many players, Jutanugarn relies on her work with the Vision54 team Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, not to mention the constant support from her sister Moriya and mother Apple, to keep her on the right path. In a week when Jutanugarn could add World No. 1 to her list of accomplishments, that support is crucial to such a young player.
“I feel like Pia and Lynn keep telling me all the time, that like no matter my ranking going to be, they going to give me full support,” said Jutanugarn, who currently sits at World No. 3 behind Lydia Ko and So Yeon Ryu. “That makes me feel like I don’t have to worry about the outcome. The only thing I have to do is go have fun. Especially my mom and my sister, I mean, I just feel like even I’m not win or anything going to happen in my life, I’m going to get full support from them.”
CHASING NO. 1
Rolex Rankings No. 2 So Yeon Ryu and No. 3 Ariya Jutanugarn are looking to be the 10th different player to reach No. 1 since the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings began in 2006. Both players will try to achieve this in the coming weeks, as only 0.2 points separates them from the top ranking, currently held by Lydia Ko.
On May 8, 2017, Ko reached the milestone of 100 total weeks at No. 1. Before Ko, only Lorena Ochoa (158) and Yani Tseng (109) had experienced this achievement in their careers.