Ariya Jutanugarn wins LPGA’s Canadian Open

Ariya Jutanugarn rebounded from disappointment at the Olympic Games to win the LPGA’s Canadian Open on Sunday.

Knee pain forced the 20-year-old from Thailand to withdraw during the third round of the women’s golf tournament in Rio, where women’s golf made its Olympic debut.

Jutanugarn was the leader after the opening round there.

She almost pulled out of this week’s US$2.25-million Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, but was glad she didn’t.

“My knee hurt so bad last week, but when I got here on Monday and Tuesday, it was getting a lot better,” Jutanugarn said Sunday after collecting a winner’s cheque of $337,500.

“I think my tee shots were pretty good all week and my irons are getting a lot better in the last week or so.”

Jutanugarn’s fifth victory in just her second year on the tour is the most by any LPGA player this season. Among the wins for the No.-2 ranked player in the world is this year’s Women’s British Open.

Leading by two shots heading into the final round at Priddis Greens Golf and Country Club, she posted seven birdies and just one bogey en route to a six-under 66 in cool, cloudy conditions.

She finished four shots clear of runner-up Sei Young Kim of South Korea on the 6,622-yard Raven course. Three-time winner Lydia Ko of New Zealand tied for seventh at 13-under.

Jutanugarn received a champagne shower from playing partners Kim and countrywoman In Gee Chun after sinking a birdie putt on No. 18.

“I felt like I wanted to have fun and be happy on the course,” Jutanugarn said. “I feel really happy with myself right now. No matter what’s going to happen, I feel like I can handle it.”

Three Canadians finished in the top 15 for the first time in the history of the tournament. Alena Sharp of Hamilton closed out with gallery-pleasing, back-to-back birdies for a career-best fourth.

The 35-year-old shot 5-under on the final day to finish seven shots back of Jutanugarn.

“I can’t really describe how great it feels to play this well in Canada because I have not played well at the Canadian Open in recent years,” Sharp said.

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., and Maude-Aimee Leblanc of Sherbrooke, Que., tied for 14th at 11-under for the tournament.

Henderson, 18, walked off smiling after a birdie putt on No. 18. Leblanc, 27, was not as happy after missing a short par putt for a bogey there.

“I feel like I can play a lot better than this,” Leblanc said. “I played good, but obviously there’s some improvements I need to make.

“It was very important to play well here. My goal was top 10.”

Henderson, the world No. 3, and Sharp flew directly to Calgary from Rio, where Henderson tied for seventh and Sharp placed 30th.

Both women felt optimistic about their game as they head to the US$1.6-million Manulife LPGA Classic in Cambridge, Ont., starting Thursday.

They’ll morph from the home-country favourites to the home-province favourites.

“I had a pretty solid week,” Henderson said. “My game is really close to being really, really good so hopefully next week I’ll fix those little things and be closer to the top.

“I’ve had such an amazing experience here in Calgary and I think just being a little bit closer to home, I think the crowds will be outstanding.”

Sharp’s ball bore the initials “DCJ” to honour Dawn Coe-Jones. A member of Canada’s Golf Hall of Fame, Coe-Jones of Lake Cowichan, B.C., underwent surgery on her right leg in March to remove cancerous tumours.

“I’m just thinking of her this week,” Sharp said. “She inspired me to play well this week and when I had a bad hole, I really didn’t let it get to me. It was perspective.”

Sharp missed the cut when the Canadian Open was last held at Priddis seven years ago, so she felt she took “a little bit back from the course that took from me in 2009.”

“Today was a really good test because I came out and wasn’t as nervous as yesterday,” Sharp continued. “I was calm, I hit great shots. I made putts.

“I felt like I had things under control for four rounds this week and it’s been a while since that’s happened.”

Quebec City’s Anne-Catherine Tanguay finished strong Sunday with a 69 to go 2-under for the tournament. Calgary’s Jaclyn Lee was also 2-under after a 74 on Sunday.


Article written by Donna Spencer of The Canadian Press