THE world’s two best women players will resume their battle for top spot at the Australian Women’s Open next month with Thai superstar Ariya Jutanugarn today confirming her presence at Royal Adelaide.
Jutanugarn and New Zealand’s Lydia Ko hold the top two world ranking positions and spent much of 2016 locked in a desperate battle for the Number One spot.
While Jutanugarn is yet to achieve the mantle, she closed the gap significantly on Ko in the past 12 months, setting up a rivalry that looks set to continue for years to come.
Delighted tournament director Trevor Herden said in a statement confirming the presence of the 20-year-old Women’s British Open champion in South Australia that the tournament was shaping as a memorable one.
PLAYER PROFILE ARIYA JUTANUGARN:
“Nobody in world golf, men’s or women’s, was hotter than Ariya last year and we are delighted to have her commit to South Australia,” Herden said.
“She plays attacking golf and we’re sure that all the fans who come to Royal Adelaide to watch her play will be in for a treat.
“Her commitment really underlines the increasing importance of the Women’s Australian Open and will heighten the global focus on South Australia in February.”
Ko, already an Australian Women’s Open champion after taking the crown at Royal Melbourne in 2015, had already confirmed her intention to play as has defending champion Haru Nomura.
The LPGA co-sanctioned event continues to draw strong fields and another star studded tournament is expected from February 16-19.
Still, attracting Jutanugarn to play is a coup for organisers after a breakout season for the 20-year-old in 2016.
Long heralded as a superstar in the making, Jutanugarn came into her own last season with five victories, including a maiden major at the Women’s British Open, and Player of the Year honours.
She also captured the LPGA Tour’s year long points race title, the CME Globe, and the money list.
Jutanugarn is one of the most powerful players in the game and regularly competes without carrying a driver, relying instead on a 2-iron to keep the ball in play.
Her style is a direct contrast to that of Ko who is the quintessential technician, clinically dismantling golf courses with precise driving and iron play and superlative putting.
Ko, who had a tumultuous end to 2016 when she parted ways with long time caddie Jason Hamilton then split with coach David Leadbetter, will begin her 2017 in Adelaide using all new equipment as well.
The 19-year-old phenom, already a 14 time LPGA Tour winner including two majors, announced an endorsement deal with upstart club manufacturer PXG earlier this week after using Callaway equipment since turning professional in late 2013.
Ko’s end of year shake-up has drawn criticism in some circles and she will be under intense scrutiny in 2017 as she tries to hold off multiple challengers for her World Number One mantle.
Second ranked Jutanugarn is just one of a number of super talented pursuers including two time major winner In Gee Chun, Canadian teen Brooke Henderson and top ranked American Lexi Thompson.
GOLFING WORLD PLAYER PROFILE LYDIA KO: