OLYMPIA FIELDS, Illinois — The LPGA Tour’s second major of the year kicks off on Thursday at the famed Olympia Fields Country Club on the south side of Chicago.
There are a lot of players to like this week, but looking down the list, the’s one name that sticks out above all the rest: Ariya Jutanugarn.
Jutanugarn looked to be on track for a fairly middling career when she turned professional 2013. She came into 2016 with just one Ladies European Tour win to her name, then promptly set the golf world alight. After closing with three bogeys to lose a one stroke lead down the stretch at the ANA Inspiration, Jutanugarn racked up five wins between May and August — including a major — and added another win at the Manulife LPGA Classic in January. By all accounts, the stars seem to be aligning for her to add another major to her trophy cabinet this week.
Why? First off, she’s won here before.
Well, kind of.
There are two courses on the property at Olympia Fields Country Club: The North course and the South. Jutanugarn captured the 2011 U.S. Girls Junior Amateur on the South, but nevertheless, the positive vibes she’s been feeling about coming back.
“I have really good memories here,” she said. “I know it’s a different course, but when I got here, I felt like, ‘oh, I’ve been here before…we had so much fun.”
Jutanugarn’s game is also a great fit for the course this week.
The 2003 U.S. Open is likely the last time golf fans would’ve seen the course, when the short-hitting Jim Furyk plodded his way to his only major victory.
That may appear to favor shorter, more accurate players (which Jutanugarn is not, ranking 62nd in Driving Accuracy this season), but I’m referring to my U.S. Open logic for this one. Long hitters traditionally do well at courses like this not because, simply put, it’s easier to reign-in their power to get the best of both worlds. And besides, this isn’t a U.S. Open. The rough isn’t nearly as long, so if and when Jutanugarn does hit it off line, she’ll be able to escape much easier.
And finally, Jutanugarn is the value pick. She’s the No. 2 ranked player in the world and hasn’t missed a cut in her last 24 starts. She has a first and second in her last five starts, and she comes into the event…10/1?!?!
Jutanugarn may not walk away with the victory this week, but you won’t find better value than that.