Jutanugarn sisters reunited, contending in Hawaii

By Randall MellApril 18, 2013, 5:30 pm

The Jutanugarn sisters miss each other.

They’re relishing their reunion in Hawaii at the Lotte Championship this week even as they occasionally squabble as sisters like to do.

“I miss her,” says Moriya Jutanugarn, the older sister to Ariya. “When I stay with her, we’re going to fight all the time, but that’s a good thing. Staying with my sister is always a fun time, because, she is a crazy girl. Sometimes, I’m crazy, but she’s worse than me. If you go to her Instagram, you will see some of the crazy things.”

Ariya, 17, seized the first-round lead Wednesday at the Lotte Championship with an 8-under-par 64. She is already a Ladies European Tour winner as a rookie on that tour this season. She made it into the Lotte Championship through Monday qualifying.

Moriya, 18, an LPGA member, shot a 69 Wednesday and is tied for 16th.

Ariya and Moriya, the pride of Thailand, make each other laugh. They also make each other better. That’s why it has been hard competing on separate tours this year.

Ariya won the U.S. Girls’ Junior two years ago and lost to Lydia Ko in the semifinals of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur. Ko went on to win that title. Moriya was runner-up in the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur.

With Moriya turning 18 and ready to go pro last year, the Jutanugarns wanted to start their careers together. Ariya petitioned last summer for a waiver of the LPGA’s age restriction to allow her to go to Q-School with Moriya, but Ariya wouldn’t turn 17 until just before the final stage. A player must be 18 to be a tour member. The LPGA denied her petition.

The Jutanugarns showed just how formidable they would be pursuing careers on separate tours late last year. First, Moriya shared medalist honors as co-winner of LPGA Q-School. Two weeks later, Ariya won LET Q-School.

The family has temporarily split this year to manage both careers. Ariya travels the LET with her father, Moriya the LPGA with her mother.

“It was a little bit sad, because normally we aren’t separate,” Moriya said. “At the end of this year, Ariya will try to qualify for the LPGA. If she plays on the LPGA next season, we can travel all together again.”

If Ariya holds on and wins the Lotte Championship this weekend, they might be back together sooner than they planned. If Ariya wins, she is eligible to claim a two-year LPGA membership. However, because she doesn’t turn 18 until Nov. 23, she would again have to petition the LPGA for a waiver of the tour's age restriction.

Ariya nearly won the Honda LPGA Thailand in February, the second event of the season. On the verge of becoming the first Thai to win an LPGA event, Ariya took a two-shot lead to the last hole with her homeland cheering her historic march. She was in tears after collapsing on the final hole with a triple-bogey 7 and losing by a shot to Inbee Park. Ariya fell into Moriya’s arms off the 18th green.

“After she missed that putt and lost in Thailand, everybody thought she would not play good in Singapore the next week,” Moriya said. “But, she kept her game. She was fine. It was a good experience for her.”

Ariya finished fourth in her next start at the LPGA’s HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore. One month later, Ariya won the LET’s Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.

“Everybody was happy,” Moriya said. “I was happy, my parents were happy. It was perfect timing.”

Ariya said winning was a good tonic.

“I have a chance in Honda, but I lose it, so winning one in Morocco, it makes me confident,” Ariya told media after her round Wednesday in Hawaii. “It [makes] me stronger.”

Ariya has earned $215,568 as a non-member of the LPGA in her two starts this year. That would rank her eighth on the LPGA money list this week. If Ariya ends this season with non-member winnings that rank among the top 40 on the money list, she would be eligible for LPGA membership without going to Q-School this winter. However, only money won by non-members in events with cuts count. Ariya’s winnings this year have all come in LPGA events without cuts.

Ariya has an offer to play the LPGA’s Kingsmill Championship on a sponsor exemption next month and may try to Monday qualify for the North Texas Shootout next week. She also is registered for U.S. Women’s Open qualifying.

Moriya is off to a strong start to her LPGA rookie season. She tied for fourth at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and is 19th on the LPGA money list with $191,488 in earnings.

“When I play with Moriya, she helps me with everything,” Ariya said. “Sometimes, when I play not very good, I tell her what’s wrong, and she try to figure it out and teach me. When I play with her, it’s very happy and fun.”

The Jutanugarns look like they’re going to have a lot of fun together in the coming years.

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Watch: Daly makes an ace at the Chubb Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

John Daly won't walk from the Chubb Classic with the trophy, but he certainly deserves recogition for his Sunday scorecard, which came complete with a hole-in-one.

Daly aced the 154-yard par-3 16th on the Talon Course at TwinEagles, when his ball carried the froont bunker and tracked right to the hole.

Two holes later, Daly signed for a final-round 67 that included four birdies, three bogeys and two eagles, which both in the span of four holes on the back nine.

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Gustafson shares stuttering success video

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 8:31 pm

Sophie Gustafson shared a breakthrough Sunday morning on YouTube.

Gustafson, a five-time LPGA winner and 16-time Ladies European Tour winner, shared her news in a 4-minute and 15-second video.

She did so without stuttering.

And that’s the nature of her breakthrough, something she is sharing in hopes that it will help others who stutter.

“I’m certainly not perfect, and the next time you see me, I am going to stutter, there is no question about that,” she says in the video. “But I am excited, because I am going in the right direction, and I believe I have found the solution that works for me.”

For someone who has struggled with stuttering all of her life, Gustafson has touched so many with her ability to communicate. She has entertained her legion of Twitter followers with her sense of humor. She also has written articles.

Back in 2011, Gustafson touched Golf Channel viewers when she opened up about her stuttering in an interview that was aired during the Solheim Cup. Her courage in sharing her challenges was recognized the following year, when the Golf Writers Association of American presented her its Ben Hogan Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has persevered through physical ailment. She also won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award that year.

Gustafson, 44, left the game as a player three years ago to become Beth Allen’s full-time caddie on the Ladies European Tour. She explains in the YouTube video that she is making her breakthrough with the help of Steve Gill, a team member with Tony Robbins’ life and business strategy group.

Gustafson said Gill led her to breathing, meditation and incantation exercises that have helped her since they began working together eight months ago.

“If you know anyone who stutters, tell them to breathe in and then speak,” Gustafson said. “I tried it the other way for 44 years, and it's just not working.” 

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J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

Make way for Jin Young Ko.

The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.

Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

“I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

Ko finished at 14 under overall.

It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

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Luiten takes title at inaugural Oman Open

By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:25 pm

MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten of the Netherlands won the inaugural Oman Open on Sunday to break a title drought of nearly 17 months.

The 32-year-old Dutchman shot a 4-under 68 to finish on 16-under 272, two shots ahead of his friend, England's Chris Wood (69).

It was Luiten's sixth European Tour title and the first since the 2016 KLM Open.

Frenchman Julien Guerrier (71) virtually assured that he would not have to go to qualifying school for the 12th time with a third-place finish after a 13-under 275.

Luiten started with three birdies in his first four holes, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth set him back. On the back nine, he made three birdies, including a key one on the 16th, where he made a 30-foot putt.

''It feels great. I didn't know what to expect when I came here but to play a course like this which is in great condition - it's a great technical golf course as well - it was beyond my expectation and to hold the trophy is even better,'' said Luiten, who is expected to rise to No. 65 in the new rankings on Monday.

''I had a great start, that's what I was hoping for. I hit some nice ones in close and rolled in a couple of nice putts and that gets you in the right position, where you want to be.

Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

''Unfortunately, I had a couple of bogeys as well on the front nine, but I recovered from that with a couple of nice birdies on the back nine and it was a good battle with Woody.''

Playing one group ahead, England's Wood was right in the mix and tied with Luiten at 15-under when their fortunes went in opposite directions almost at the same time. On the 17th hole, Wood drove his tee shot into the hazard left and could do no more than chip his ball out for a bogey. Luiten, meanwhile, drained his 30-footer birdie putt on the 16th for a two-shot swing.

Recovering his form after a series of disappointments, Wood was let down by the loss and said: ''It's golf isn't it? You are never happy.

''I played poorly for six or eight months. Would have never thought I would have put myself into contention. And when you do, you feel gutted when you don't win. I am pretty down really, but in the grand scheme of things, when I reflect after a couple of days, I will think it is a big step in the right direction.''

Luiten's win also got him into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, securing him a start at the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks.

Frenchman Alexander Levy (70), who was hoping to finish in the top five to push into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai and grab the WGC-Mexico spot himself, did manage a joint fourth place at 11 under, but Luiten's victory kept him 11th.

The European Tour next moves to Doha for the Qatar Masters starting on Thursday.