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Ariya Jutanugarn survives dramatic US Women's Open finish

Jutanugarn with the most sought-after trophy in women's golf. (Photo: Copyright USGA)
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn has survived a dramatic final three hours of the US Women’s Open to win her second major championship and her 9th LPGA Tour title following a playoff which lasted four holes against South Korean Hyo Joo Kim.

The playoff became necessary at Shoal Creek in Birmingham in Alabama after Jutanugarn squandered a seven-shot lead through 9 holes of the final round, made even worse by bogeys at her final two holes.

An outward nine of 32 set up what appeared, at that time, to be an almost unassailable lead for the 22 year old but disaster struck at the 10th hole when a wild tee shot led to a triple bogey and with bogeys at her 12th, 17th and 18th holes and a bogey-free final round of 67 by Kim, the pair was tied at 11 under.

Jutanugarn had the opportunity to win at the 72nd hole but after finding the front bunker with her approach she missed a 14-footer to take the title.

The pair headed back to the 14th for a two-hole aggregate playoff but couldn't be separated and returned to the 14th for sudden death.

Both players parred the 14th the second time around, Jutanugarn doing so from the back bunker but at what would become the final hole of the championship, the 18th, Jutanugarn again hit a superb bunker shot and saved par while Kim was unable to do so from the front bunker.

Given the gut-wrenching feeling no doubt running through Jutanugarn's body as a result of letting such a significant lead slip, the Thai star turned what might what otherwise have been a long-lasting scar into the greatest victory of her career.

Spain’s Carlotta Ciganda finished in 3rd position after her final round of 69 while American Danielle Kang finished as the leading American and alone in 4th place.

Australia’s Sarah-Jane Smith tied for 5th with Lexi Thompson, Taiwan’s Wei-Ling Su and, yet another emerging Thai star, amateur Patty Tavanakit.

There will no doubt be mixed emotions for Smith given that she played the last 29 holes of the US Women’s Open in 8 over par after leading through 36 holes but that she has finished 5th in the female game’s greatest championship will go down as arguably the best performance of her career to date.

Sarah Jane Smith in action today 

Smith’s share of 5th with three other players will see the 33-year old secure the biggest cheque (US$182,500) she has earned in the game but with it goes the disappointment of allowing the three-shot 36-hole lead slip.

It is Smith’s best finish in a major championship by some way and has elevated her game and her standing to a significantly greater height.

Smith explained the contrasting fortunes of the weekend which would provide both pride and disappointment for the 33 year old from Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast.

“Yeah, I mean yesterday I was pretty happy with the day. I felt like I hit the ball very nicely, which was comforting, just didn't roll any putts in.

"Today I hit a few more squirrelly shots. I don't know, I think I ran out of gas on the back nine. Such a big week, I think. Things weren't going the right way and I conked out a little bit.

“Obviously it feels a little disappointing right now. In reality, I missed five cuts in a row like six weeks -- over the last six weeks. So I feel like if you would have said after Kingsmill when I had missed my fifth one in a row, would you take a Top 5 at the U.S. Women's Open? I think I might have taken it.

“I have got to think of it that way, that I have lot of good progress in the last two weeks alone. Hopefully this is setting me up for a nice summer.”

Of the other Australians Su Oh completed a strong week finishing 17th and Minjee Lee was 34th.

SWING LIKE LYDIA KO

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