For much of this season on the LPGA Tour, parity has been the driving storyline, a different player winning nearly every week. Six golfers have claimed titles for the first time in their careers in 2018, and 18 different women won the first 20 tournaments. It’s created an odd dynamic where anyone on tour could win at any time, while at the same time with so many different winners, it feels nearly impossible to stand out.
If there is one player, though, who might rise above the sea of talent and begin to take control, it’s Ariya Jutanugarn. With her one-shot win over Minjee Lee on Sunday at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, the 22-year-old from Thailand notched her third victory of the year, and the 10th of her career.
Jutanugarn closed with a five-under 66 at Gullane Golf Club in East Lothian, Scotland, making just one bogey to six birdies. The win was unexpected for Jutanugarn, as she doesn’t see links golf as a strength.
“It means a lot to me to win the tournament. I told the caddie this week, you know, what I really want to win on a links course, even one time in my life will be good. So right now my dream come true,” Jutanugarn said. (She won the 2016 Women’s British Open, but it was at Woburn Golf Club, a parkland course.)
Early in the week, it looked like another first-time winner might break out, tour veteran Tiffany Joh leading after the first two days after shooting a 62-67. But after a difficult, windy Saturday, Joh’s 80 dropped her back, and Jutanugarn emerged, a one-over 73 after rounds of 67-65 good enough to grab a share of the lead with Amy Yang. Lee sat one shot back.
Suffice it to say, the victory provides Jutanugarn plenty of confidence as she heads into the Ricoh Women’s British Open next week at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
“I feel like I’m pretty lucky this week and I don’t know about next week,” Jutanugarn said. “I know it’s going to be tough next week and especially a Major, so just need to work on the same stuff.”
Jutanugarn’s first win of the 2018 season came in May at the Kingsmill Championship, where she won in a playoff. She then added the US Women’s Open title, this time in a playoff after losing a seven-shot lead in the final round. She’s made the cut in all 19 events she’s played in 2018, and has finished in the top-10 eight times, not including the three wins. In the days following her win in Scotland, she’s projected to become World No.1.
Now that she has proven herself on a links course, has withstood the rollercoaster win of the US Women’s Open, and has won more times than anyone else on tour this season, the next question is: Will Ariya Jutanugarn separate herself as a dominant player on this deeply talented tour?