After waking up before daybreak to complete her second round at the U.S. Women's Open, Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn said she would have little trouble sleeping on Saturday night as she heads into the final round with a four-stroke lead. That Jutanugarn steadied herself to emerge victorious from a sudden death play-off with Kim Hyo-joo points towards formidable mental strength.
Smith started the tournament with back-to-back 67s, but shot a 74 in the third round and didn't make a birdie to fall into second place.
In the first use of the new two-hole aggregate playoff for USGA Open championships, it was Kim who gained the advantage after rolling in another monster putt for birdie on the first hole (No. 14) - while Jutanugarn made par.
Seeking his first victory since the 2015 Russian Open, Slattery produced eight birdies, an eagle and a single bogey to move just ahead of home favorite Francesco Molinari and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark.
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Going back out to No. 14, Kim barely missed a 20-foot birdie try that would have won it and then Jutanugarn rolled in a 4-footer after a brilliant bunker shot. "So I tee off on 11, I told my caddie, 'I don't know how to hit this one, '" Jutanugarn said. Half the field completed the second round Saturday morning. "I don't worry about the outcome". "I'm pretty sure tomorrow is going to be a pretty good day".
Smith had shared the overnight lead with Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn and South Korea's Lee Jeong-eun - who uses the numerical designator "6" with her name to distinguish her from five other Korean pros with the same name.
"I was definitely nervous but not like I've been in the past, I was actually kind of happy with how I handled it a bit more today", the leader said afterwards.
"I know everything's going to be the same and they're going to love me the same, " Jutanugarn said. "I'm just trying to play my game, follow my strategy and try to hit fairways and greens and I think there can be a few good scores but not many".
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World number 97 Smith, winless in 222 starts on the LPGA Tour, failed to notch a single birdie.
They returned to the 18th hole for the third time Sunday.
Jutanugarn woke up at 4:00am for the 6:45am restart of the second round, which was pushed back an hour because of nearly an inch of rain on Friday night. Both found bunkers with their second shots - Kim short of the green and Jutanugarn just to the right - and the South Korean finally blinked. I was sort of holing a lot of putts.
"I feel like I have (one) last chance to make myself proud", she said, "do the shot in front of me". Last year, though, having reached top spot in the world rankings she duly missed four successive major cuts.
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