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Jutanugarns look to turn Evian into sister act

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They share a bond you usually only see in twins.

Moriya Jutanugarn may be 16 months older than her sister, Ariya, but they’re practically joined at the hip.

“They don’t always play practice rounds together, but off the course they are with each other every waking moment,” says Les Luark, Ariya’s caddie.

How much time, really?

“Too much,” Ariya cracked with her sister looking on in a media session Wednesday at the Evian Championship.

It’s only natural then to wonder when we’ll see them in a final Sunday pairing together trying to win an LPGA event.

Perhaps in a major championship?

This week’s Evian Championship offers as likely a place as any to see the Thai sisters go head to head with a title on the line.

Ariya, 22, has already won two majors, and this is the place Moriya, 24, came closest to breaking through to win her first a year ago.

Full-field tee times from Evian Championship

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Moriya led Evian going into the final round last year, and had the lead on the back nine. A bogey at the last left her one shot out of the sudden-death playoff won by Anna Nordqvist.

Still, it was a big step forward in Moriya’s quest to win a major.

“A lot of good memories on this golf course,” Moriya said.

Ariya tied for ninth at Evian two years ago.

Shortly after Moriya broke through to win her first LPGA title at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open in April, she joined Ariya among the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. They joined Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the only sister acts to win LPGA events, with Ariya and Moriya the only sisters to both rank among the top 10 in the world.

The Jutanugarns would relish becoming the first sisters to win majors.

What would it be like if they were paired together Sunday?

“I’m going to try to beat her,” Ariya said.

“I would say the same thing,” Moriya said. “I always try to beat her anyway.”

The sisters get asked a lot about what it would be like to go head to head for an LPGA title.

“I've been thinking about that,” Ariya said earlier this summer. “Normally, when we play in the same group, we don’t really talk much at all. But it's going to be fun.”

Make no mistake, they do root for each other.

With Moriya trying to close out last year, Ariya was on the course, following her sister from outside the ropes. Ariya was also there at the end for Mo’s first win in Los Angeles. Mo’s been there at the end helping Ariya celebrate victories multiple times.

“The love between Ariya, Moriya and their mother [Narumon] is a beautiful thing,” says Vision 54s Pia Nilsson, who teams with Lynn Marriott as the sisters’ performance coaches.

Moriya and Ariya have been a team since the day their father first put golf clubs in their hands. Moriya was 7 and Ariya was 5 ½. They learned to play growing up at Garden Rose Golf in Bangkok, Thailand, where their father owned a pro shop.

Mo is the classic older sibling. She’s the planner, organizing and setting agendas. Ariya? She’s the carefree prankster who doesn’t sweat the small stuff. She knows her mom and sister will do that for her.

The sisters do love to tease each other.

In Wednesday’s news conference, Ariya said she had a plan for Evian week. She meant detailed dinner plans. She loves the food in the French resort town on Lake Geneva.

Moriya: “I pretty much follow her. She had a plan. You know, after she left the golf course she had a plan for every day.”

Ariya: “We have ice cream every day, cake every day, and I love it.”

Moriya: “She gains weight, for sure.”

The sisters are hoping they’ll be sharing a victory dinner come Sunday.