After stellar season, Ariya still wants to hit driver

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NAPLES, Fla. – Ariya Jutanugarn is eager to see what she can do next year with a new weapon in her golf arsenal.

Jutanugarn claimed the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the LPGA’s money winning title Sunday with her tie for fourth at the CME Group Tour Championship.

She won a tour-best five LPGA titles this year, and she made 469 birdies, breaking the LPGA record for most birdies in a season.

Jutanugarn did all of that while barely hitting her driver. In fact, most weeks, she never even put a driver in her bag. Instead, she relied heavily on her 3-wood and a 2-iron.


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“I didn’t feel like I played aggressively this year,” Jutanugarn said. “No driver this year, and today I didn’t even hit one 3-wood, only 2-irons and 3-irons.”

Jutanugarn can hit her 3-wood past most players’ drivers. She finished 18th in driving distance on tour this season, averaging 264 yards per drive.

Jutanugarn developed a healthy fear of her driver during her slump last year, when she missed 10 consecutive cuts and couldn’t keep her tee shots in play. She went to Vision54'ss Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott and swing coach Gary Gilchrist for help near year’s start, with her driver woes depleting her confidence in her overall game. They helped her mount one of the great turnarounds in the game.

“Next year, I’m going to try harder to bring my driver out,” Jutanugarn said.