Ariya Jutanugarn captures Kingsmill Championship in playoff

WILLIAMSBURG, VA - MAY 20: Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand pretends to take a selfie while holding the trophy on the 18th green after winning the Kingsmill Championship presented by Geico on the River Course at Kingsmill Resort on May 20, 2018 in Williamsburg, Virginia. The tournament was shortened to three rounds due to inclement weather during round two. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Ariya Jutanugarn captures Kingsmill Championship in playoff

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Ariya Jutanugarn captures Kingsmill Championship in playoff

Look out, folks. Ariya Jutanugarn might make a run this summer. Undoubtedly inspired by younger sister Moriya’s recent success, Ariya looked the part of a cool customer at the soggy Kingsmill Championship, a place that has delivered good vibes since her teenage years.

Ariya sat near the 18th green with her caddie, Les Luark, and family as she waited to see if anyone from the last group – In Gee Chun or Nasa Hataoka – would win the tournament outright in Williamsburg, Va.

“I’m just really chilling because I know I did a good job today and all three rounds,” Ariya said of her relaxed look after closing in 66 for a 14-under 199. “I’m just going to watch my friend have a good chance to make birdie.”

Neither converted, sending the trio into a sudden-death playoff. Jutanugarn told herself she could do no worse than second place and took an easygoing approach into extra holes. The Thai star collected her eighth LPGA title in fine fashion, birdieing the 18th twice. Chun is now 0-3 in LPGA playoffs, while Hataoka had her best week yet.

The past few months Ariya, 22, thought she had played well but had nothing to show for it. She asked Luark repeatedly “When I’m going to win? When I’m going to win?”

The tactic wasn’t working at the Kingsmill Championship, so she changed her approach.

“I never talk about winning at all and now I won the tournament,” she said, “so I think I should keep doing the same thing.”

For the second consecutive tournament, officials had to shorten the event due to weather. In Texas two weeks prior, the tournament was cut to 36 holes. This time, somewhat remarkably, they got in 54.

Members of the grounds crew – some came as far as Seattle – were at the course as early as 2 a.m. to pump water from bunkers and toil during the night.

“I have no idea how they pulled through and got it playable for how much rain we’ve gotten this last week,” Jessica Korda said. “So huge props to the grounds crew. All the volunteers, everyone involved has done an amazing job. We’re very thankful everyone stuck around and didn’t leave us.”

Jutanugarn has made cut in every event

Brooke Henderson birdied Nos. 15-17 to surge up the leaderboard and threatened to get into the playoff with a close call on the 18th. Her closing 65 left her one shot out of overtime.

Henderson, a winner in Hawaii, has been switching between blade and mallet putters in recent weeks and went with a blade Sunday. She had 29 putts in each of her last two rounds and believes she found her U.S. Women’s Open putter.

“I think I’ve gone through four putters this year,” she said, “and I rotate a couple times between each of them.”

While Henderson has had a bit of a roller-coaster year, Jutanugarn is the only player on tour who has played in every event and made the cut each time.

She leads the tour in money, birdies and total events played. She’s second in both putting categories and fourth in driving distance, though she rarely uses a driver. In regulation play Jutanguarn hit a 2-iron off the tee because it felt more comfortable.

In the playoff, she knew that she needed a shorter club for her approach and belted 3-wood off the tee. Each week she leaves something in the tank, though she has used driver a handful of times.

Looking back, Jutanguarn thought she wasn’t quite ready to be World No. 1 the first time around. She took a bullet train to the top after putting driver in her locker, winning three consecutive events in May of 2016, followed by two more in the summer, including a major. Five victories in 10 starts.

But this time, well, she’s a different player.

“I think I should be fine,” she said. “But, you know, the ranking is out of my head for almost a year, so I never think about that. I just really want to go out and have fun, and that’s it.” Gwk

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