Ariya Jutanugarn to defend Women's British title without a driver ... again

Getty Images

Ariya Jutanugarn to defend Women's British title without a driver ... again

LPGA Tour

Ariya Jutanugarn to defend Women's British title without a driver ... again

KINGSBARNS, Scotland – Ariya Jutanugarn plans to defend the $3.25 million Ricoh Women’s British Open the same way she won last year.

She’s stashed her driver safely in her locker.

Jutanugarn powered her way to victory at Woburn Golf Club in 2016 despite not carrying the biggest club in her bag the whole week. The 21-year-old Thai player used mostly a 2-iron off the tee to help her post a 16-under 272 around the Marquess Course.

Why change a winning philosophy?

“I know I’m not going to use driver,” Jutanugarn said. “I feel it’s pretty hard to control my driver.”

She may mix things up slightly this week. She might use her 3-wood on the odd occasion.

Jutanugarn might need that little bit of extra fire power. Kingsbarns is set up 249 yards longer than Woburn was a year ago. The par-72 layout measures 6,697 yards compared to Woburn’s 6,448. The Ladies Golf Union is now part of the R&A, and R&A director of rules Grant Moir is in charge of course setup. That might mean the field isn’t hitting wedges into what should be tough par 4s, as they did last year.

Jutanugarn reached No. 1 in the world earlier this year after winning the Manulife LPGA Classic. She stayed there for two weeks before So Yeon Ryu knocked her off the top spot.

The six-time LPGA winner arrives in Scotland third in the Rolex Rankings behind Ryu and Lexi Thompson. She also has a couple of handicaps.

Firstly, this is only her third time playing links golf. She hasn’t fared too well in her previous links experience. She missed the cut a Turnberry two years ago, and placed 25th at Royal Birkdale the year before in her championship debut.

“I haven’t played much (links golf) at all,” she said. “This one is my third time and it’s really hard for me to totally defend on what I did before. I have to do a lot of thing I never do before. I have to make sure to keep the ball low and to aim like 50, 40 yards left. It’s really tough for me.”

That maybe explains why she finished T-44 in last week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open at Dundonald, also a links layout. Scores of 71-77-75-74 might justify British bookmakers Ladbrokes listing her as a 40-to-1 shot this week, although the weather was atrocious on Scotland’s west coast last week.

She’s on the east coast this week, and the weather should be better. However, Jutanugarn hasn’t turned up in the best of health.

“I’m sick,” she revealed, which was obvious from the way she sniffled throughout her press conference. There’s more.

“My shoulder is getting better but last week I start to hurt a little bit,” Jutanugarn said. “I hit a few bad shots, lots of bad shots.”

Jutanugarn has missed tow major cuts and withdrew from another LPGA event since late June. She is already receiving treatment from her physio this week.

Yani Tseng, 2011, is the last player to successfully defend the Women’s British. Even driverless, Jutanugarn has the power to do the same.

Remember that old adage: Beware the injured golfer.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home