Olympic Movers and Shakers – Week Ending May 29
There is no arguing that Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand is the most in-form player in world golf. Ariya, who won the Lalla Meryem Cup as a rookie professional on the LET in 2013 before an untimely injury swiftly halted her progress, won the Volvik Championship on Sunday to make history as the first player to win her first three victories on the LPGA Tour in consecutive events.
She swept the boards during May, winning all three events staged on the LPGA Tour including the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic, the Kingsmill Championship and the Volvik Championship in Michigan.
Jutanugarn won by five shots from Christina Kim and is the first since Korea’s Inbee Park in 2013 to win three consecutive events on Tour. Her rise through the Olympic Rankings has been jet-propelled. At the start of May she was in 17th spot but has leapt to 13th, 11th and now her highest ranking in 10th place.
Canada’s Brooke Henderson tied for third behind Jutanugarn to climb to fourth place while Korea’s Ha-Na Jang re-entered the Rankings in eighth, with Amy Yang dropping out. Mika Miyazato came into the Rankings in 21st with Shiho Oyama slipping out of the top 60. Giulia Molinaro continued her battle with Diana Luna for one of the Italian places, coming back into the running in 49th while Luna dropped out.
“I feel good. I think last year I had chances to win a few tournament but I didn’t learn like how to play with pressure. But this year, especially the last few weeks, I have learned and know how to play under pressure. There is an expectation for me to play well, especially in the Olympics because I represent Thailand. I always have my target. I want to be better and better. Any (medal) would be good, but gold is the best.” Ariya Jutanugarn.
Spieth back on the winner’s podium
Jordan Spieth delivered an emphatic message that his Masters disappointment was merely a temporary career blip when he claimed his first PGA Tour victory in his home state of Texas. The two-time major winner closed with a pair of 65s for a 17-under-par total of 263 to edge out fellow American Harris English and capture the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth.
In doing so, Spieth consolidated his position as No.2 behind Jason Day in the Olympic Golf Rankings. India’s Anirban Lahiri was the only non-American in the top ten in a tie for sixth to strengthen his place on the Road to Rio in 26th while Canada’ David Hearn tied for 17th and moved up one spot to 40th.
“It’s an opportunity that I never thought I was going to have. You know, I’m interested in checking out the trophy, and I’m interested in keeping a very close eye on what’s going on around the Olympics, too, mainly off the course, and trying to figure out the safety concerns, figure out plans, but as of now, I’m extremely excited for it.” Jordan Spieth.
Wood chops down his rivals at Wentworth
England’s Chris Wood secured his third, and undoubtedly most prestigious, European Tour victory, by landing the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. The tallest player on the Tour at over 6ft 6in (196cms), Wood finished on a nine-under-par 279 to beat Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg by a shot with Masters champion Danny Willett in third place on 281.
The result leaves Willett in eighth place on the Olympic Rankings, one place in front of fellow Englishman, Justin Rose, who withdrew with a back injury. However, Wood would be delighted to rearrange his summer schedule if he managed to maintain his rich form and qualify for Rio.
Three potential Olympians were in a log-jam for seventh place. Martin Kaymer of Germany and South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl both moved up one place to 24th and 25th respectively while Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay climbed one spot to 42nd.
Elsewhere in the world, Korea’s K T Kim was the week’s biggest climber within the top 60 on the strength of his one shot win over Kodai Ichihara of Japan in the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open at Okayama on the Japan Golf Tour. Kim jumped from 18th to 15th on the Road to Rio.
“It is the biggest win of my career. I have always wanted to win the tournament and to win with my family here is amazing. It’s such a massive release to get over the line. To play in the Olympics would be amazing, but I’m getting married the week after (the Olympic golf competition) and my ‘stag-do’ clashes at the moment with the Games. We’ll have to keep an eye on it.” Chris Wood, dreaming of Olympic glory.
“I’d love to play in the Olympics. They (my parents) played in Seoul. They got silver and bronze medals in table tennis. I’ve got to try to get gold then. Just by playing in (the Olympics) is really special for me, so I’ll do my best to try to make the team.” Byeong Hun An, 2015 BMW PGA champion, whose parents were both Olympians.