SAMMAMISH, Wash. – One streak is alive; the other one not so much. Playing in cool, breezy conditions that bordered on cold and blustery, Ariya Jutanugarn lost a battle with a brutal Sahalee CC and shot 75 Friday to complete 36 holes of the KPGM Women’s PGA Championship at three over par. But with pretty much everyone in full reverse on a day when pars were prized and birdies hard to find, that should be good enough to keep the 20-year-old from Thailand in contention to win her fourth consecutive LPGA start. The best score in the clubhouse was only three strokes better than hers. Inbee Park is not so lucky. Fresh off the high emotion of qualifying for the LPGA Hall of Fame on Thursday and fighting an injured left thumb, she followed her 72 with a 79 and will get some much needed healing time by missing the cut and not playing the weekend.
Jutanugarn, who elicited oohs and ahs from the large galleries by driving with a 2-iron she hit with such force the ball compressed off the clubface with a crack that echoed like a gunshot through the towering pines that surround Sahalee, smiled but was clearly in no mood to talk after she lipped out a putt on her last hole to finish with a bogey. “I must have lipped out five times,” she said after she finished sending a text on a smart phone engulfed by a giant ice cream cone case. While she smiled throughout her interview, the brevity of her answers and the way she stood with arms folded across her chest told a story she wasn’t putting into words. “I tried so hard to stay positive today,” she said. “It was really tough conditions and it was a major.” And that was that. She was off. With no one going low in very difficult scoring conditions, Jutanugarn, who made four bogeys, a double bogey and two birdies, should have a chance to make amends on Saturday and get back in the mix going to Sunday’s final round. Park, however, is most likely headed home. The cut stood at five over par when she finished and while it was likely to climb in the difficult conditions it was very unlikely to make it all the way to her nine over par total.
She said her poor performance had nothing to do with the excitement of getting into the HOF, which she shared with family and close friends Thursday evening.
“I started refreshed,” she said. “It just didn’t happen to be my day. It was tough out there.”
Then she hinted at the real reason for her high score. “I think I will have to really re-think [her schedule],” Park said when asked when she will play again. “I might need some time to really get better.” That’s what folks in her camp have been saying privately for a few weeks now. The question is whether she can be healthy enough to commit to playing in the Olympics when the final field is announced July 11. Meantime, her bid to win this tournament for a record fourth consecutive time is definitely over.