Where EAST meets the Northwest
Moriya Jutanugarn. (Photo/Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto/Sipa USA)(Sipa
via AP Images)
Ariya Jutanugarn. (Photo/Amy Lemus/NurPhoto/Sipa USA)(Sipa via
TOP THAI STARS. Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand tees off on the third hole at
the Meijer Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Classic golf tournament
at Blythefield Country Club in Belmont, Michigan. Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand
hits a ball from the 8th tee at Blythefield Country Club. Sisters Moriya and
Ariya have both found success so far this season.
From The Asian Reporter, V28, #13 (July 2, 2018), page 9.
Two top Thai LPGA stars are also sisters
By Mike Street
Special to The Asian Reporter
The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) has been dominated by eastern
golfers lately, nearly all of them from South Korea. Then in 2016, Ariya
Jutanugarn burst onto the scene, becoming the first Thai golfer of either gender
to reach the top of the world golf rankings. After struggling last season, Ariya
now leads the 2018 Race to the CME Globe, ahead of another Thai golfer: her
Moriya has actually been on the LPGA tour longer than her younger sister
Ariya, having qualified for the tour as soon as she was eligible in 2013. In her
first season, Moriya played in 24 events, registering a fourth-place finish and
five other top-20 finishes, earning the 2013 Rookie of the Year award.
In the next several seasons, she struggled to match that success. Unable to
finish higher than fourth in a tournament, she still played well, matching her
career low score of 66 three times in 2015 and ranking fourth in the LPGA in
putting average in 2016.
Moriya seemed to put it all together in 2017 when she registered another
fourth-place finish, and added two second-place and two third-place finishes.
She had six more top-10 finishes for a total of 11, almost twice as many as
she’d accumulated in the four previous seasons. Moriya also earned more than
$1.3 million that year, slightly more than she’d made in her entire career.
This season, Moriya is showing that 2017 was no fluke. She finally secured
her first win in April, at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open notching six more top-10
finishes in her first 15 events of the season. That victory made Moriya and
Ariya only the second pair of sisters — and the first of Asian descent — to win
on the LPGA. And the win put Moriya in second place for the Race to the CME
Globe and fifth on the Rolex Rankings.
Ariya, the player above Moriya in both season-spanning leaderboards, has been
having an even better season — and career — than her older sister. Ariya
qualified two years after Moriya did and got off to a slower start, failing to
win the 2015 Rookie of the Year award after a good season of four top-10
But Ariya made up for lost time in 2016. In addition to achieving the top
spot in the world, she became the first Thai golfer to win a major tournament
when she won the Women’s British Open. That season, she also led the tour with
five victories, becoming just the second player ever to win Rolex Player of the
Year, Race to the CME Globe, and the LPGA Official Money Title in the same
Ariya started strong in 2017, with eight top-10 finishes in her first 10
tournaments, four of them in either second or third place. A victory at the
Manulife LPGA Classic seemed to portend another amazing season for her. Then an
old shoulder injury flared up, and Ariya endured a horrible string of 13
tournaments in which she withdrew once, failed to make the cut five times, and
finished inside the top 20 just once.
She righted the ship in time to win the season-ending CME Group Tour
Championship, but it wasn’t enough to boost Ariya to the top of any of the
season leaderboards. She still finished in fifth in the Rolex Rankings and ninth
for the Race to the CME Globe — the latter just one spot behind sister Moriya.
This different level of play between the sisters is consistent with a pattern
recognized by Lynn Marriott, one of the performance coaches shared by the
Jutanugarns. Marriott said, "Ariya’s highs are really high and her lows are
really low … [Moriya] is so different, not too high and not too low, not as
This season, both of them look like they’re finally hitting their high points
together. Through 15 tournaments, Moriya has seven top-10 finishes, including
the win at the LA Open, plus a second- and a third-place finish. Ariya has 10
top-10 finishes over the same span, seven of them in the top five, including the
top spot at the Kingsmill Championship and her second major tournament win at
the U.S. Women’s Open.
For all their shared successes, the sisters don’t like to compare themselves
to each other. After Moriya’s win, she said of comparisons to her sister, "I
have my own way to do things and she has her own way." And Ariya agreed, saying,
"We never compare each other. We just know [we do] our best and try our
Even though Ariya has enjoyed more success on the leaderboard, and despite
their protests, the sisters are having similar statistical seasons in 2018. In
addition to the other leaderboards where they’re currently rubbing elbows, the
sisters are first and second on the tour this season in both birdies and top-10
finishes. The Jutanugarns both have eight eagles, tied for second place on the
tour, while Ariya is first in the official money rankings and Moriya is third.
All kinds of sister records remain within their reach, both this season and
beyond. If they can both stay hot this season, they could become the first
sisters ever to finish in the Top 10 of the Rolex Rankings. And if — or perhaps
when — Moriya wins her first major, the Jutanugarns would be the first sisters
to win LPGA majors.
At a time when Asian women are dominating the LPGA, the laws of probability
might have predicted that two of the best would be sisters. But statistics could
not have predicted how these two competitors support each other, keeping their
competitiveness on the course separate from their close relationship away from
it. The combination is just one more reason Asian sports fans will be watching
women’s golf with more interest than any other sport.
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