A. Jutanugarn puts on a happy face

By Randall MellJuly 28, 2016, 6:16 pm

WOBURN, England – Ariya Jutanugarn learned a lot from her late collapse at the ANA Inspiration almost four months ago.

You can see it in that practiced little smile she flashes stepping over every shot now.

It’s a pre-shot routine trigger she learned from her Vision 54 coaches, Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott.

Jutanugarn is hoping to turn those hard lessons learned losing to Lydia Ko at Mission Hills into a major championship breakthrough this week at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

With a 7-under-par 65 Thursday, Jutanugarn moved into early contention at Woburn Golf Club, where she sits three shots behind the leader, Mirim Lee.

“One time in my life, I really want a major,” Jutanugarn said after her bogey-free round Thursday.

Jutanugarn, 20, had a major championship within her grasp at the ANA in April before losing a two-shot lead with three holes to go. After breaking down in tears in the clubhouse, she told her sister, Mo, that she was going to do everything she could to learn how to close out leads.

That’s where the pre-shot smile comes from.

Nilsson and Marriott broke down what they saw in the final round at Mission Hills, showing Jutanugarn that she was speeding up under pressure, which was leading to more tension and tightness in her body.

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“We tried nine different things [to use as a trigger], to help her step into the present, to keep from looking ahead, because she said she would get anxious about hitting a shot,” Nilsson said.

They tried different waggles and movements like that, but when they suggested a smile, Jutanugarn seized on it.

“It was about getting her to really look forward to hitting the shot, about feeling a passion for hitting the shot,” Nilsson said.

The Thai star used that smile like a mental waggle, rebounding from the ANA loss to win the Yokohama Tire Classic, Kingsmill Championship and Volvik Championship in consecutive starts. She also used it to give herself a shot at winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, where she finished third, missing out on a playoff by a shot.

That little smile embodies a lot of the mental work Jutanugarn did coming back from the ANA loss.

“May is so cute, her big smile is obvious,” Nilsson said. “Really, though, it’s not about the smile. It’s about how she feels inside that’s important. When we tried the smile, she said, `That’s me.’”

Jutanugarn also went to work with her swing coach, Gary Gilchrist. Her entire team is here this week. Like Nilsson and Marriott, Gilchrist walked with Jutanugarn on Thursday. The biggest difference he sees in Jutanugarn is the confidence a good plan is giving her.

“She has the game to win every single week,” Gilchrist said. “And now there’s a lot less doubt.

“If she would have won before the ANA, she would have won the ANA.”

Jutanugarn has a new member of her team, with Pete Godfrey on her bag as caddie for a third consecutive event.

There was no driver in Jutanugarn’s bag again Thursday. She navigated her way around Woburn using  3-wood and 2-iron off tees, carving shots around all the doglegs here. She may be the only other LPGA pro beside Laura Davies who carries a 2-iron. It’s become a valuable tool. She routinely rips it past other player’s drivers.

“I love this course,” Jutganugarn said. “It really feeds my game.

“I don’t have to hit my driver. The course is not too long [6,463 yards]. I really feel comfortable with my 2-iron. I feel like I can hit it hard and do whatever I want to do with it. I can hit a draw, I can hit a fade.”

Jutanugarn had every facet of her game working at Woburn. She hit 12 of 14 fairways, was 13th in driving distance (254 yards per drive), hit 16 greens in regulation and took just 25 putts.

“I got a lot more confident after ANA and KPMG,” she said. “Now, I feel really confident.”

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry