HOUSTON – The PGA Tour doesn’t have a 72-hole stroke play event this week, and several weekend college football games, including the Michigan-Ohio marquee matchup, have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus the best women golfers remain well positioned in the world to fill the void on television.
This weekend, the LPGA is playing the United States Women’s Open, its most lucrative major tournament, pushed back six months after the original pandemic date on a stage cleared of some of the usual obstacles that can overshadow women’s golf in America. The spotlight it offers is tailored to Ariya Jutanugarn in many ways.
Jutanu yarn, 25, a former No. 1 women’s world from Thailand, produces tremendous club head speed and can produce birdies in grapes if she plays a role. But she tested positive for coronavirus ahead of an LPGA event in Florida last month. In her final round of training that week, Jutanugarn didn’t look like the same player who was crowned Open Champion in 2018 or the same who finished sixth at an LPGA stop in Georgia in late October.
Jutanugarn played the last nine places on Cypress Creek course in a group that also included her older sister Moriya (26) and fell back a few steps behind the others due to the effect of the virus, which she described as persistent.
“Every time I play, I walk very slowly because my heart rate is so high. But I just have to take care of it. “
One month after her diagnosis, she continued to struggle with fatigue and headaches. The barbecue that Texas is famous for, a staple food for gamblers, is largely lost because she has not regained her sense of smell or taste.
“It’s tough because I know my body isn’t 100 percent yet,” said Jutanugarn. “I just have to take care of it and do my best and make sure I take good care of my body.”
You are playing in a Christmas bubble.
The poinsettia centerpieces on tea snack tables # 1 and 10 don’t fool the players. They are very aware that Christmas is not quite here yet.
“When I got into those two weeks, the last week or two that I was home, I said, ‘OK, I’m going to be in a bubble,” said Lexi Thompson, the 11th player. “Me don’t take the chance to test positive in the two most important weeks of the year. “
Even so, it’s 2020. Despite the best-made bubbles, something is happening. On Wednesday, the United States Golf Association announced that Andrea Lee, who tested negative for the coronavirus prior to the Volunteers of America Classic outside of Dallas and spent last week in the LPGA bubble, tested positive for the virus upon arrival in Houston and withdrew from the open.
Jutanugarn breathed a sigh of relief on Monday after passing her coronavirus test before the event. Although Jutanugarn was in a featured group along with two other former champions, Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu, she said her expectations were low.
On her return to the competition after the quarantine, she finished 62nd. Moriya, who tested positive at the same time as her sister, also returned to the Volunteers of America Classic, finishing in 16th place.
“Last week when I was walking 18 holes I passed out because I was so tired,” said Ariya Jutanugarn.
All is not necessarily lost. Last month, Dustin Johnson won the rescheduled Masters a month after testing positive for the coronavirus in a pre-test. Like jutanu yarn, he isolated for at least 10 days and returned to the last tuning event.
On Masters Sunday, Jutanugarn said, she turned on the TV and intended to see Johnson’s final round. But she had a fever and her head was pounding. “I fell asleep for four hours, woke up and he was done,” she said.
Two courses are required to reach the entire field before dark.
The challenge for Jutanugarn and the rest of the Open competitors is intensifying as the tournament will be held for the first time this year on two courses to accommodate a full field of 156 women in the fading winter light.
Cypress Creek, where three of the four rounds are played, is long and has massive greens. Second place, Jackrabbit, in which each contender plays one of the first two days, is a tighter layout with contours around the smaller green complexes. To play both well, it takes the versatility of a Formula 1 driver who could also be competitive in NASCAR.
Stacy Lewis, a two-time grand winner who is a member of the Champions Club, knows both courses well. “I think in everyone’s head you’re saying, ‘We’re going to play Cypress three times, my focus will be more on that path than the other,'” she said. “And then you have a bad day on Jackrabbit and don’t even play the next two. I know people asked me and I told them, ‘Take care of Jackrabbit. ‘“
A lot of money is at stake this weekend and next.
The next two weeks have the full focus of the players. Both the US Women’s Open and next week’s Florida finals offer a winner’s check of at least $ 1 million. The US Open will pay out $ 5.5 million and the Tour Championship wallet will be the fifth highest in this year’s women’s game at $ 3 million. This route can only be compared with the period from mid-August to September in which two other majors – the Women’s British Open and the AIN Inspiration – were contested.
“To be honest, it feels weird because I play around Christmas Day in December. So it’s the first time,” said Jin Young Ko, the No. 1 women’s world. “But the place is tough and then see all nervous. ” It’s fun too. “
Fun? Danielle Kang, who has won twice since the tour restarted in July, is joined this week by boyfriend Maverick McNealy, who plays on the PGA Tour. McNealy is one of several male players, including big winners Jason Day and Bryson DeChambeau, who threw their support behind the LPGA this week by posting news on social media with the hashtag #WomenWorthWatching. DeChambeau’s regular caddy, Tim Tucker, shines on Lexi Thompson’s bag this week.
When asked about the best advice McNealy has given her, Kang, a one-time big winner, said, “Just relax. It’s the US Open. Everyone is stressed out. “