By Jeff Babineau
Ariya Jutanugarn had one thought when she opened this week’s Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give by shooting 73. She probably was headed for the weekend off.
“I would say after my first round,” said the former World No. 1 from Thailand, “just have no expectation.”
Then she went out and shot 64 on Friday, the low round of the tournament until Leona Maguire would match it on Sunday, and followed it with a 66 on Saturday to get herself into contention, just two shots off the lead held by Amy Yang.
“I would say last two days it show me lot, that when I’m not thinking about outcome and I really want to play hole by hole, it’s help me a lot,” said Jutanugarn, 27, a 12-time winner on the LPGA. Her victories include a pair of major championships (2016 RICOH Women’s British Open and 2018 U.S. Women’s Open)
Jutanugarn is superstitious too, and had a stop to make before visiting with the media for some post-round questions Saturday evening. After playing poorly on Thursday, she went right to the range to hit balls, then shot 64. Following her Friday 64, she did the same, responding with 66 on Saturday. So, in keeping with a good trend, she left the 18th green and headed over to hit some practice balls Saturday evening.
“I’m like, Oh, I should do it again today,” she said. So I hit only five balls. That’s it.”
Jutanugarn was tied for 107th place after the first round. Since 1980, the worst first-round position by a winner on the LPGA Tour was a tie for 84th place. Jutanugarn shares the tournament record a Meijer for low round, shooting 62 in the final round of he 2018 Meijer. Lexi Thompson matched it a year later, and Nelly Korda shot 62 on the way to her record total of 263 (25-under) in 2021.
Sunday, Jutanugarn shot 6-under 66 to finish alone in second place, earning $230,318. Not bad for somebody who three days earlier was looking at having the weekend off.