Jutanugarn shows glimpses of pre-injury self

By Randall MellApril 3, 2016, 4:31 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Ariya Jutanugarn was going to take the LPGA by storm as a teen phenom.

That’s what it looked like when the Thai star hit the professional ranks as a 17-year-old. She nearly won the LPGA’s Honda Thailand in 2013 on a sponsor’s exemption. She won an LET title as a rookie on that tour that season and also made five impressive LPGA starts. She logged finishes of 2, T-3, T-3, T-4 and T-4.

Jutanugarn rocketed all the way up to No. 15 in the world before she stumbled off a tee box during some horseplay in a practice round at the 2013 LPGA Championship and tore the labrum in her right shoulder. She was out for eight months without touching a club. When she returned, she wasn’t the same player. She still had pain in the shoulder. She couldn’t make the same kind of swing and couldn’t muster the same kind of confidence.

Jutanugarn, 20, looks like she might be poised for something big again based on her performance this week at the ANA Inspiration.

With a 5-under-par 67 Saturday, Jutanugarn was tied for the lead before Lexi Thompson eagled the 18th hole at day’s end. Jutanugarn will be paired  with Thompson on Sunday, one shot off the lead.

“I’m a little bit excited,” Jutanugarn said. “I’m going to have fun and enjoy tomorrow.’

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Jutanugarn was one of the longest hitters in the game before her injury. She still has power, but she swings differently today. She still can’t make the same down swing she used to make without feeling a twinge of pain. She comes into the ball more steeply now, less shallow than she used to because of the injury.

“I’m still not 100 percent, but I feel fine with this swing,” Jutanugarn said.

Jutanugarn isn’t even hitting driver this week. She’s hitting 3-woods and 2-irons. Yes, she’s one of the few women in the game who still hits an honest-to-goodness 2-iron, not a hybrid. She’s averaging 260 yards per drive without a driver at Mission Hills.

“I don’t think I need driver,’ Jutanugarn said. “I think to put the ball in the fairway is more important here.”

Moriya Jutanugarn, Ariya’s sister, was the LPGA’s Rookie of the Year in 2013. Moriya says Ariya can hit a 2-iron 240 yards.

“She hits a 2-iron like I hit my driver,” Moriya said.

Jutanugarn just began working with Gary Gilchrist as her new coach this year. She says her caddie, Les Luark, has also helped her with course management. He helped her make the decision to take driver out of her bag.

“Ariya says she doesn’t think her shoulder is ever going to be 100 percent, but I think she would say she’s getting pretty strong,” Moriya said.

Ariya says the confidence lost in her long layoff is coming back.

“I don’t like to compare it to what it was like three years ago,” Ariya said. “It’s getting a lot better. It’s getting better all the time.”

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

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“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.