Ko, Jutanugarn tearing through Girls' Jr. bracket

Ariya Jutanugarn will face Casie Cathrea in the U.S. Girls' Junior quarterfinals on Friday morning.

Ariya Jutanugarn will face Casie Cathrea in the U.S. Girls' Junior quarterfinals on Friday morning.

Girls Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Nicole Morales2014NY69.32
2Andrea Lee2016CA69.82
3Bethany Wu2015CA69.83
4Megan Khang2015MA70.01
5Lilia Vu2015CA70.53

DALY CITY, Calif. – It was almost like they were playing a different course. In fact, Ariya Jutanugarn and Casie Cathrea burned through their third-round matches so quickly at Lake Merced Golf Club that the rest of the field was just starting to make the turn as they were packing it into the clubhouse. That’s what happens when matches end at No. 12 and 14, respectively.

For top-seeded Jutanugarn, Thursday at the Girls’ Junior could not have gone any better. After beating Katelyn Dambaugh, 5 and 4, in the morning, she blitzed Ashlan Ramsey in the afternoon, 8 and 6. That included three consecutive birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 12.

In all, Jutanugarn made six birdies and an eagle in the 12 holes she played after lunch. She uttered these words after exiting the 12th green: “I got lucky. I made a lot of long putts. I’ve never made (them) like this before.”

Still, it was about more than long putts – and it was about much more than luck. Jutanugarn’s eagle at the the par-5 sixth was set up by a 200-yard 5-wood she hit to 10 feet. The shot surprised her.

“My 5-wood is so bad,” she said.

Jutanugarn played for the first time Thursday morning with friend Sagee Palavivatana on the bag, an old friend who met Jutanugarn at the Optimist about five years ago. Palavivatana, a sophomore at Sacramento State, wasn’t sure how to describe what she witnessed.

“I learned a lot,” Palavivatana said.

In the match behind Jutanugarn, Casie Cathrea was keeping her head down, focusing on getting herself into the position where she could face Jutanugarn in the quarterfinals. She made a sneaky eagle at the par-5 14th to win, 6 and 4.

After five rounds at Lake Merced (including a 66 in stroke-play qualifying), the Livermore, Calif., resident is getting a better feel for the course. She has a better idea of where to place the ball, her hybrids and fairway woods are behaving and she’s confident in her putting and chipping.

Cathrea’s early-morning date with Jutanugarn won’t be the first time she’s seen her game. She played with Ariya and her older sister Moriya at last year’s Junior PGA Championship and also earlier this year at the South Atlantic Amateur.

“Ariya doesn’t make mistakes,” she said.

Jutanugarn hasn’t yet seen the 15th hole in match play. Cathrea has been past No. 16 only once. Tomorrow’s match is likely to be one similar to the Round-of-16 contest between World No. 1 amateur Lydia Ko and Nicole Morales, who owns the biggest margin of victory at this tournament – a 9-and-8 victory over Lauren Johnson on Wednesday.

Ko, 15, beat Morales, 2 and 1, but it was an all-day-long fight. Said the New Zealander, “She was kind of like a dog on your pants that would not let go.”

That’s a fitting description for a match during which Ko was down twice, and never more than 2 up. Morales calls a missed 7-footer for birdie at No. 9 her biggest blunder. She missed a similar one at No. 11 – a left-to-right breaker, a putt with which she always struggles – recovered from the sand at Nos. 12 and 14, then got one back when Ko made her lone bogey at No. 15.

“If that’s a mistake, she did really good,” Morales said. “I couldn’t complain.”

With Morales dormie at No. 17, both players made birdie. It was the sixth birdie of the afternoon for Ko, and Morales’ fourth.

For Morales, the match was far from the previous day’s 9-and-8 victory – a margin that sends Morales to the clubhouse early, never a bad thing – but there are no complaints from the New Yorker.

“You had to win with a birdie, there were no pars. It was just impeccable golf.”

And there’s more where that came from, especially if Ko and Jutanugarn, the top two female amateurs in the world, continue to charge through the match-play bracket. They would meet in the final.

That’s not a match likely to end early.

• • •

GIRLS' JUNIOR ROUND OF 16 RESULTS

  • Ariya Jutanugarn def. Ashlan Ramsey, 8 and 6
  • Casie Cathrea def. Anne Freman, 6 and 4
  • Kelli Murphy def. Shawn Rennegarbe, 2 and 1
  • Minjee Lee def. Casey Danielson, 3 and 2
  • Lydia Ko def. Nicole Morales, 2 and 1
  • Yueer Feng def. Summar Roachell, 6 and 4
  • Alison Lee def. Yu Liu, 2 and 1
  • Lauren Diaz-Yi def. Alexandra Kaui, 3 and 2
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