Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn overcame a dramatic back-nine collapse to win the US Women’s Open title after four extra holes against Hyo Joo Kim at Shoal Creek.
The 22-year-old from Bangkok, who is fifth in the world rankings, was cruising to a comfortable victory after an outward 32 gave her a seven-shot lead, but a series of mistakes after the turn, beginning with a triple-bogey seven at the 10th, saw her lead disappear to point that she required extra holes to finally secure the win.
Jutanugarn’s troubles off the tee – she used a 2-iron to drive with on the back nine – coupled with some stunning long-range putting from Kim, produced a dramatic finale, which had appeared unlikely halfway through the final round. The pair finished 72 holes tied on 11 under, with Kim returning a 67, while Jutanugarn bogeyed the final two holes to sign for a 73.
The pair headed back to the 14th tee to begin a two-hole play-off, and Kim sank another long putt for birdie to gain the upper hand, as Jutanugarn could not follow her in from 10 feet. Jutanugarn then flew the green with her approach to 18, while Kim’s came up short and found the front bunker, from where she was unable to get her escape close to the hole and two-putted for bogey, while her Thai opponent played a delightful pitch and converted from four feet to force sudden death.
Both parred the 14th at the second time of asking, with Kim’s 20-foot putt for victory shaving the right edge of the hole, and after Kim blocked her second to the 18th into the right greenside trap, Jutanugarn’s flushed approach found the back-right bunker.
Kim splashed out to 15 feet from long range, but Jutanugarn played arguably the best bunker shot of her career as she got her ball to within two feet of the flag. And, after Kim’s par putt missed the target, a relieved Jutanugarn tapped in to secure her second major, and her first since her three-shot win at the Women’s British Open two years ago.
The top two finished four shots clear of Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, whose closing 69 ensured her best finish in a major, and there was another four-shot gap to Danielle Kang. Inbee Park, who currently tops the world rankings, was the ninth player to finish under par, with Charley Hull and Michelle Wie closing on level par.