Ariya targets Rio gold after LPGA Tour breakthrough

Fri May 13, 2016 3:27am EDT
 
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By John O'Brien

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Ariya Jutanugarn sank a gutsy par putt on the 72nd hole to become the first Thai to claim an LPGA Tour victory last weekend and after finally getting her maiden win after several near misses, the 20-year-old has set her sights firmly on Rio.

Big-hitting and renowned for her aggressive play, Ariya famously blew a two-shot lead on the final hole of her home Honda LPGA Thailand event in 2013 when a stunning triple-bogey eight handed Korea's Park In-bee a one-shot triumph.

At last month's ANA Inspiration, Ariya held a two-shot lead late in the final round of the season's first major but three bogeys in a row from the 16th handed the title to world number one Lydia Ko as the Thai was left to rue another collapse.

At last week's Yokohama Tire Classic, Ariya led by three strokes going into the final round after a sizzling 63 on Saturday and despite seeing her advantage dwindle to just one shot by the last, she was not about to be denied again.

"My legs were shaking, my hands were shaking," Ariya told reporters after her nervy five-footer at the last in Alabama. "The last three holes were so tough. I couldn't control anything."

The victory took Ariya up to 21st in the world rankings and she is ready to mount an assault on Olympic gold alongside compatriot Pornanong Phatlum, herself a four-time runner up on the lucrative U.S.-based circuit.

FATHER'S PRIDE   Continued...

 
Apr 3, 2016; Rancho Mirage, CA, USA; Ariya Jutanugarn attempts a shot on the 15th hole during the final round of the ANA Inspiration tournament at Mission Hills CC - Dinah Shore Tournament Course. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports