Two Jutanugarns, two 59s and a victory in the LPGA team event

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The final round of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational was looming and Ariya Jutanugarn was frustrated. Her game wasn’t where she thought it should be, leaving her sister Moriya in difficult places during a one-over 71 Friday in foursomes and two off the lead.

Ariya further stressed over whether they needed to change their flight time from Detroit (to France for the Amundi Evian Championship) given the two-hour drive following play Saturday. As she walked to the tee, a conversation with Moriya set the tone for their 11-under 59 in fourball play at Midland Country Club in Midland, Mich., that produce a three-shot victory, Ariya’s 12th career win and Moriya’s second.

“I walked to my sister and told her, ‘you know what, Mo, today the goal is we’re going to try to make birdie every hole,’” Ariya said. “I don’t care if we’re both going to make bogey, but after that, if we make bogey, after that try to make birdie again. That’s the goal today.’ And we agreed to have the same goal.”

They birdied the odd holes through their opening nine and carried the momentum onto the back nine, making five straight birdies through 13. The Thai sisters were nine under for the round, then cooled off until the 17th, when Ariya’s approach on the par 4 kicked off the slope right of the green and trickled above the pin for a five-foot birdie.

The door was left slightly ajar after the Jutanugarn’s tee shots on the 18th. Ariya just found the left side of the green, and Moriya hit it in the water. “I had tears when she went in the water on the last hole,” Ariya said, jokingly. “I’m like, Mo, come on.”

“She was crying,” Moriya said in response.

Some of the most chaotic closing moments followed after the Jutanugarns walked to the 18th green. Defending champions Jasmine Suwannapura and Cydney Clanton were on the 16th at 20 under, needing to birdie in for a chance to match the Jutanugarns. Suwannapura, 40 feet below and left of the hole in the rough, chipped in. A moment later, Suwannapura and Clayton’s playing partner Pajaree Anannarukarn chipped in from a similar spot to move her and her partner Aditi Ashok to 20 under.

Jutanguarn’s putt followed and fell in for the sisters’ 11th birdie of the day, their second fourball round of 59 of the week, spearheading their victory.

“I feel like for the best ball, it feels like we never give up because you always can have a chance,” Moriya said. “I hit a bad shot and I know she’s going to get it. Even if she doesn’t hit a good shot and I try to get her back.”

The victory snapped a three-year winless streak for Moriya and placed Ariya alongside Nelly Korda as the two players with multiple wins on the LPGA Tour in 2021. Even having become the first Thai player to win the Honda LPGA Thailand in May, Ariya said that winning alongside her sister and her family in attendance was the most special victory of her career.

“Every tournament, she [Moriya] is always with me,” Ariya said. “And this time [was] even more special because we win together. So far this one is the best one.”

Though focused on their golf, the Jutanugarns also were preoccupied. Ariya’s caddie, Peter Godfrey, is with his wife Jane Park as their 10-month-old daughter Grace is hospitalized, recovering from a brain infection. The sisters wore pink ribbons in support of Grace, and Ariya employed Morgan Pressel’s caddie Barry Cesarz in Godfrey’s stead.

Ariya and Godfrey talked every night, as her caddie remained upbeat despite his daughter’s difficult health.

“We keep telling him [Godfrey] we miss him because last time when we here, he caddied for me and we had so much fun,” Ariya said. “We wish he was here with us. He always put a smile on his face to make us happy, and he always gives us the best support, and he keep telling us, ‘You got this, go win for Gracie,’ and we did.”

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