Ariya Jutanugarn finds comfort zone heading into U.S. Women's Open

Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports

Ariya Jutanugarn finds comfort zone heading into U.S. Women's Open

LPGA Tour

Ariya Jutanugarn finds comfort zone heading into U.S. Women's Open

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CHARLESTON, S.C. – Last week Ariya Jutanugarn brought back a familiar face in LPGA caddie Pete Godfrey. He first picked up Jutanugarn’s bag at the 2016 Women’s British Open, which she won, and was let go at the end of her breakthrough season.

Godfrey, who is married to LPGA player Jane Park, could be part of the catalyst that gets the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open winner back in the winner’s circle.

Bottom line: He makes her comfortable.

“He really has fun with like every situation,” said Jutanugarn, “even when I’m mad, when I’m angry, he knows how to have fun.”

And there’s this: “I feel like he has the best read of the greens.”

Jutanugarn swept everything last season – Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy, Rolex Annika Major Award, money title, and the $1 million Race to the CME bonus – but has yet to contend on a Sunday in 2019.

After struggling on the greens this season, Jutanugarn said she and short-game coach Gareth Raflewski recently discovered a problem in her setup – her hands were too far back.

Jun 3, 2018; Shoal Creek, AL, USA; Ariya Jutanugarn poses with the championship trophy after defeating Hyo-Joo Kim (not pictured) in a sudden death playoff in the U.S. Women's Open Championship golf tournament at Shoal Creek. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Ariya Jutanugarn won the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open Championship at Shoal Creek in a playoff. (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

Now that she’s feeling more comfortable with her stroke, Jutanugarn has turned her focus toward speed on the greens. She’ll need it on the challenging green complexes here at Country Club of Charleston during the U.S. Women’s Open this week.

While the fairways are more generous off the tee than most Women’s Open courses, Jutanugarn still plans to keep driver in the bag. As for dealing with the record-high temps, she said: “I’m Thai, so it doesn’t really affect me.”

Jutanugarn’s collapse (losing a seven-shot lead) and then epic comeback (in a playoff) at Shoal Creek last year will go down as one of the wildest finishes in championship history.

It won’t be covered in the upcoming movie about her though. The storyline of “Pro May – Genius m?st be created” only extends through her first LPGA victory.

The question mark in that title isn’t a typo but rather something the film is meant to explore – Can any parent raise their child to be a genius or is it God-given?

Jutanugarn said she ignored the moviemakers for six months before her agent pressed her to have a conversation.

She wanted to know one thing: Why do they want to make a movie about her life?

“They say they want to inspire the kids, and they think our family life (is) going to help the kids in Thailand,” she said. “So that’s why I do it.”

As for the actresses who play her at various stages of life, Jutanugarn said she had no input.

“I told them, if you want to be close to me,” she said, “make sure you hit it hard.”

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