Ariya Jutanugarn loses huge lead, yet rebounds to win U.S. Women’s Open in playoff

June 3, 2018

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Ariya Jutanugarn lost a seven-shot lead on the back nine, stayed alive with a par in the two-hole playoff and saved par with a bunker shot to win on the fourth playoff hole and capture the U.S. Women’s Open on Sunday at Shoal Creek.

Jutanugarn appeared to have her second major sewn up when she shot 32 on the front nine to stretch her lead to seven shots. But the 22-year-old Thai began the back nine with a triple bogey, and then closed with back-to-back bogeys for a 1-over 73.

That put her in a two-hole playoff with Hyo-Joo Kim, who shot 5-under 67.

This is the first time the USGA has gone to a two-hole aggregate playoff, and Kim quickly took command by rolling in a long birdie putt on the 14th hole. Returning to the 18th, Jutanugarn went over the green while Kim found a bunker. Kim blasted out to 12 feet and failed to save par — her only bogey Sunday — and Jutanugarn chipped about 5 feet by the hole and made par to send the playoff to sudden death.

After they made pars on the 14th hole, both hit into the bunker on the par-4 closing hole at Shoal Creek. Kim hit out of bunker to about 12 feet, and Jutanugarn’s shot rolled at the hole before turning away and settling a foot away. Kim made another bogey, and the Thai tapped in for the win.

They finished regulation at 11-under 277.

Jutanugarn now has two majors, having won the Women’s British Open two years ago.

Carlota Ciganda of Spain had her best finish in a major, closing with a 69 to finish alone in third, four shots out of the playoff. Women’s PGA champion Danielle Kang was the low American with a 69 to finish fourth.

Sarah Jane Smith of Australia, who started the final round four shots behind Jutanugarn, shot a 78 and tied for fifth.