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Ko wary of Jutanugarn heading into major

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/09/2016
Lydia Ko © Getty Images Lydia Ko

Lydia Ko has acknowledged the swift improvement of Thai rival Ariya Jutanugarn as the pair brace for another high-powered skirmish at the year's final major tournament.

Jutanugarn's breakthrough season has lifted her to second on the world rankings, although still some distance behind leader Ko because of the New Zealander's deeds over a longer period.

Their results are comparable throughout 2016, with one major each under the belt while Jutanugarn's five LPGA titles is one ahead of Ko heading into the Evian Championship in France.

The 19-year-old Kiwi says her rival's game has grown considerably since a dramatic hat-trick of wins in May.

"We said her first win was coming and coming. But ever since it came, I feel she's got the confidence where she feels she can win every week," Ko said.

"She's got a different game to me. We can get carried away about how long she hits it but she's got a great short game too. That's why she's been playing so well."

Ko is the defending champion in Evian-les-Bains where her memorable closing round of eight-under 63 propelled her to a six-shot win and a maiden major title.

She followed it immediately with victory in this year's first major, the ANA Championship, followed by top-three finishes in the PGA Champions and US Women's Open.

However, Ko struggled to a share of 40th at the Women's British Open in July, where 20-year-old Jutanugarn stormed to a three-shot win.

Ko says the French tournament is among her favourites, having previously finished second and eighth.

She still regards her flawless final round last year as among the best of her career.

"There are still a lot of memories of walking down the 18th on that last day.

"It was so much more than I could ever imagine."

No player has won the tournament twice in succession since English great Laura Davies in 1996, when the Evian Masters was not yet a major.

Davies is among 26 major champions in the field, including former Evian winners Suzann Pettersen and Hyo Joo Kim, who are Ko's playing partners.

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