Jutanugarn sisters can keep US Women's Open challenge in the family
Thai pair could take all the beating in Alabama
Sky Sports Mix, 9.30pm Thursday
Jutanugarn - it’s a headline writer’s nightmare, and there are two of them, Ariya and Moriya, teeing off in the Women’s US Open at Shoal Creek, Alabama on Thursday.
It wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if they finished first and second.
Both have won this year, Ariya at the Kingsmill Championship just 12 days ago and Moriya a first-time winner in Los Angeles a month earlier. She’s the elder Jutanugarn at 23, Ariya the bigger achiever and past world number one at 22.
Two years ago Ariya won the British Open and four other tournaments. She looked unstoppable. But she went into a slump last spring, missing the cut five times in seven tournaments before bouncing back with victories in June and November.
After capturing the Kingsmill title for the second time, this powerhouse was up to nine victories and number ten won’t be far away.
For Moriya, six inches shorter than her sister, it’s tougher but she is much improved and is often the better performer by virtue of her consistency.
They are kept apart by the draw and early starter Ariya will be finished before Moriya tees off. Moriya has two past champions, 2013 winner Inbee Park and 2015 winner In Gee Chun, in her marquee threeball and her first big job is to outscore them.
Defending champion Sung Hyun Park must have every chance although she has not been at her best for much of the year. However, the cool Korean gave us a timely reminder of how talented she is by winning the Texas Classic at the start of this month.
It’s good to see Lydia Ko, the youngest world number one ever at 17 and a Major winner at 18, finally getting back on the podium after a miserable 2017 and early 2018 as swing, equipment and personnel changes took time to bed in.
That victory in last month’s Mediheal tournament puts 16-time LPGA winner Ko back in the frame as a serious contender and the Australian she defeated in that play-off, Minjee Lee, franked the form by winning last week’s Volvik.
This is the first women’s Open at Shoal Creek, previously home to The Tradition, the first senior Major, from 2011 to 2015, so there are no formlines but inevitably veterans Inbee Park and Shanshan Feng - first and second in the rankings - will be thereabouts, Olympic gold medallist Inbee chasing her eighth Major and third US Open title.
The Americans will be looking to Lexi Thompson, Michelle Wie and Jessica Korda (a winner first out this year) to keep the trophy at home, but the Asian contingent, with Chun, Seo Yeon Ryu, I-K Kim and Hye Jin Choi all capable of winning on top of the ones already mentioned, have a stronger hand.
Europe hasn’t provided the winner since the last of Annika Sorenstam’s three victories in 2006 but Swedish outsider Pernilla Lindberg, who had never won anything before, drew first blood in the 2018 Majors by beating Inbee Park at The Inspiration.
She could inspire fellow Swede Anna Nordqvist, cruelly denied two years ago when a two-shot penalty for a tiny infringement involving brushing the sand in a bunker cost her the play-off with Brittany Lang. She and Charley Hull are again Europe’s best chances.
2pts each-way 10-1 Sky Bet
1pt each-way at 18-1 bet365, Sky Bet
1pt each-way at 33-1 bet365, Sky Bet
S H Park
1pt each-way at 25-1 general
Course Shoal Creek CC, Shelby County, Alabama
Prize money $5m ($900,000 to the winner)
Length 6,732 yards Par 72 Field 150
Where to watch Live on Sky all four days, starting behind the red button at 8pm Thursday, later on Sky Sports Mix and Sky Main Event
When to bet By 12.30pm Thursday
Time difference Alabama is six hours behind UK & Ireland
Course overview This is the first time the 1977 Nicklaus layout has hosted a women’s Major but it was used for two USPGA Championships (Lee Trevino 1984, Wayne Grady 1990) and The Tradition, the first senior Major each year, was staged there from 2011 to 2015
Story of last year Korean star Sung Hyun Park won her first Major at Trump National, New Jersey, shooting 67 on Sunday while 54-hole leader Shanshan Feng fell away with a 75
Last week - LPGA Volvik Championship 1 Minjin Lee, 2 In-kyung Kim, 3 Moriya Jutanugarn, T4 Su Oh, Lindy Duncan
Weather forecast Hot and getting hotter (33C at the weekend) but rain for first two rounds
Key attribute Accuracy
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