Thai golfing ace Ariya Jutanugarn produced a commanding final-round performance on Sunday to become the first Thai in 16 years to win the LPGA Thailand
The 25-year-old former world No. 1 fired a flawless 9-under-par 63 in the final round of the Honda LPGA Thailand 2021 at Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course in Chonburi province.
She claimed the title with a 22-under-par 266, despite starting the day five strokes behind leader, compatriot Patty Tavatanakit.
Ariya pipped teenager Atthaya Thitikul by a stroke in a tense finish after thundershowers delayed play.
Defending champion Amy Yang and former world No. 1 So Yeon Ryu both shot 64 to finish third at 20-under.
Tavatanakit, who had started the tournament strongly with 64s, fell off the pace after a final-round 70, and settled for joint third place.
Ariya’s victory gave her a prize money of US$240,000 (THB7.5 million).
Ariya, currently world No. 33, is the first Thai golfer to win the LPGA Thailand since it was first organised in 2006.
Sunday’s game was also a victorious return for Ariya, who in 2013 had just turned professional and had finished second in the LPGA Thailand that year.
Including the Honda LPGA Thailand 2021, Ariya has won 11 LPGA Tours in total.
From runner-up to champion
Back in 2013, the 18-year-old Ariya had missed the opportunity to win LPGA Thailand despite leading Inbee Park of South Korea by two strokes in the final round.
Due to her lack of experience, Ariya made bogeys in the last three holes and let Park snatch the title to the disappointment of local fans.
Ariya’s winless streak continued, aggravated by an elbow injury in 2015.
After a long period of recovery, Ariya claimed her first win in 2016 at the Yokohama Tyre LPGA Classic in Alabama, USA. It was also her first LPGA Tour win and the first Thai winner on this tour.
She went on to win the next two LPGA tournaments, thereby becoming the first player in LPGA history to win her first three titles in succession.
Ariya created a sensation by winning her first major championship at the 2016 Women’s British Open, and then proceeded to win the US Women’s Open in 2018. She ended the 2018 season ranked No. 1 in the world. She has since slipped to No. 33.