June 3, 2018 / 8:31 PM / 2 months ago

Golf: Ariya seven shots clear with nine holes left at U.S. Women's Open

SHOAL CREEK, Ala. (Reuters) - Ariya Jutanugarn moved inexorably toward the U.S. Women’s Open title when she opened an almost insurmountable seven-stroke lead halfway through the final round on Sunday.

Jun 3, 2018; Shoal Creek, AL, USA; Ariya Jutanugarn tees off on the ninth hole during the final round of the U.S. Women's Open Championship golf tournament at Shoal Creek. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Already the first player from Thailand to win a major — the 2016 Women’s British Open — only a late meltdown could prevent Ariya from adding the biggest championship in women’s golf to her resume.

Mixing a long game of raw power with a short game of delicate precision, she peppered the pins with her approach shots and putted impressively to notch five birdies and one bogey on the front nine at Shoal Creek.

The 22-year-old made the turn at 16 under par, while South Korean Kim Hyo-joo made it into second place on nine-under after picking up three shots on the outward half.

Spaniard Carlota Ciganda was in third place at eight-under after 11 holes.

A victory by Ariya would end the recent domination of South Koreans and Americans, who have claimed the past 11 U.S. Women’s Opens.

Ariya has won eight times on the LPGA Tour, including five times in 2016, and she briefly gained the world number one ranking in 2017.

Reporting by Andrew Both

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