Ariya could be No.1 by Sunday

Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand waves to fans after putting on the 16th hole during the semifinal of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational at Mexico Golf Club in Mexico City on May 7. (AP Photo)

Ariya Jutanugarn is not even playing this weekend but the Thai star could still end up as the world’s top-ranked golfer by Sunday evening if everything goes her way.

In any case, Lydia Ko will relinquish her world number one ranking on Sunday (Monday morning Thailand time), ending an 84-week reign at the top of women’s golf, the LPGA said on Friday.

The South Korea-born New Zealander is not playing this week’s ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey, which means she is certain to be overtaken by either second-ranked Ariya, who is also taking the week off, or No.3 Ryu So-yeon of South Korea, who is competing in the event.

Ryu can move to No.1 if she wins in New Jersey, finishes in a two- or three-way tie for second or comes outright third. Otherwise, Ariya will be number one.

Either way, it will mark the 10th different number one since the rankings were created in 2006, after Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Shin Ji-yai, Ai Miyazato, Cristie Kerr, Yani Tseng, Stacy Lewis, Park In-bee and Ko.

“Since I dreamed about the LPGA Tour, I also dreamed about becoming the number one player in the world,” Ryu told reporters at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway on the eve of the tournament on Thursday.

“I definitely want to become number one at some point, and I’m working really hard for that, as well, but I think the more important thing is enjoy this moment and enjoy playing golf. I believe that will get me to number one.”

Ryu leads the LPGA money list with $912,000 in winnings after a stellar start to the season, highlighted by a victory at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, where her playoff win over Lexi Thompson was overshadowed by the American’s penalty for replacing her ball in the wrong spot on the green during the third round.

Ariya, who had a breakthrough season last year with five tournament wins, has eight Top-10 finishes including three as runner-up so far this season. With $699,000 in earnings, she is third on the money list.

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