Ariya Jutanugarn Blows Herself Out of British Without Taking an Extra Step
Ariya Jutanugarn is the first Thai golfer to win a major championship. Everyone at Kingsbarns knows that. She was going to be a contender for the title at the Rico Women’s British Open this week in Scotland. Everybody was pretty sure of that, too, or at least confident. Kingsbarns is situated just a few miles from St. Andrews. Like that name, Jutanugarn inspires the perception of professionalism for those who follow the exploits of the LPGA throughout its year. However, Jutanugarn is also human, something that some people may have forgotten.
Many of us who play on less than championship level courses know precisely what can happen to a round of golf in one fell swoop, or one fell series of swoops. A card that reads 4,5,5,3,14, or some such series of numbers, is not uncommon. The art of the muni player is to pull one’s head together and enjoy the rest of the day, knowing that the final score for the round will be fairly stratospheric. Does this sort of thing ever happen to a pro, especially a top pro, one who wins multiple majors on the best female tour there is? Yes, it does happen to these people as well. 14 may be a little less common, but a it doesn’t need to be a 14 to put a professional player back on the plane two days early. And where is such sudden self-destruction likely to happen? On the green? Well, maybe, but even if an amateur player goes over a four-putt, he or she probably needs to go to bed with a cold compress on the forehead. No, it’s the most feared beast in the game of golf, the bunker shot, that frightens the muni out of his or her wits, and this week, it’s the one that got to Ariya Jutanugarn.
All who watch tournaments have seen some of the most daunting sand traps in the world. They take on a Star Wars or Jurassic Park sort of countenance with big mouths and profound depths. I’ve wondered on occasions when i can’t see the player anymore as he or she goes into the pit with a sand wedge – “Will she come back out, or will it get her?” Jutanugarn got gotten at Kingsbarns. In a rare display of technical, emotional, or mental breakdown – take your pick – she took six sandy whiffs at the monster, and missed every time. I don’t know that it was the most daunting bunker around, but it didn’t matter. Ariya Jutanugarn just couldn’t hit a ball out of sand. She ended up missing the cut, and was gone by Friday night.
So, Jutanugarn, in a rare moment, got to see bunker play the way most of us see it. We, the poorly-trained and wedge-dysfunctional, are facing a type of terrain of which we have little understanding. Driving may be a game of feet, and working around the green may be a game of inches, but putting and bunker shots dwell in centimeters. The bunker’s different, though. A bad drive or fairway shot, barring water or fairway bunker, will probable still leave you on solid ground. Bad putting usually still leaves you on the green. However, standing in a bunker, you have to stay there all day while the score mounts, until you prove that you can hit the club.
Some of us know what it’s like to hit a golf ball on the beach. We learn instantly why sand became an imported hazard. Hit sand too far back, and get nothing. Too far forward, and get either nothing or sand on the other side of the green. Even a bunker shot of mediocre success has to be hit well. Either that, or we, like Ariya Jutanugarn, will stand there and stand there until either our tournament or dream score is dashed.