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ROY favorite Atthaya Thitikul has love-hate relationship with links golf

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Considering the results that she has produced in her debut LPGA season, it’s no surprise that Atthaya Thitikul leads the race for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award.

The 19-year-old Thai star, who has a victory and six other top-10s, leads Hye-Jin Choi by 61 points, and with the next player, last week’s Women’s Scottish Open winner Ayaka Furue, nearly 470 points back, it’s essentially a two-person battle with 14 events remaining on the LPGA calendar.

If you ask Thitikul, however, she’s not expecting to pad her lead at this week’s AIG Women’s Open.

Despite twice earning low-amateurs in this major championship, Thitikul has only posted a best finish of T-29 in four previous Women’s Open starts.

“I would say it's the hardest major … because I'm not a big fan of links,” she said Wednesday at Muirfield. “I come here in Scotland and England every year and start playing links course, but I would say yeah, it's a bit [of a] learning experience.”

Thitikul’s first taste of links came in this event in 2017 at Kingsbarns, which is about 80 miles from Muirfield (or less than 20 miles as the crow flies over the Firth of Forth). She missed the cut, and recalls saying of links golf that week, “Oh, my gosh, I hate it.”

“Everything,” she said of why. “Everything. I mean like in Thailand, we don't have like a real links course like here, the windy conditions like this. That's why we are kind of like, oh my, this is a new experience. … I hit like 240, and it's going to go like 300 yards. And then sometimes your ball is bouncing like everywhere, and then the pot bunkers as well. That's why.”


Full-field scores from the AIG Women’s Open


Thitikul, whose first missed cut of the season came at last week’s Scottish, isn’t ready to completely throw in the towel on this week, though. She’s ranked sixth in the world rankings, fifth in the Race for the CME Globe and has top-10s in each of the past two majors.

In other words, her game travels – even if that hasn’t translated to links yet.

“At the same time, I love [links] as well,” she said. “I love the challenge. I love how you have to have it all, like all the things, all the weather and the wind, how the ball [is] going to react in the course.”