Ariya Jutanugarn banished the memories of a late collapse earlier this year as she became the first Thai golfer to win a major championship by taking the Ricoh Women’s British Open title on Sunday.
The 20-year-old led by two strokes on the 70th tee at the ANA Inspiration in California in April, but missed out on major glory when she dropped shots at each of the final three holes.
The big-hitting Thai made amends at Woburn, though, as she went into the final round holding a two-shot lead and a closing level-par 72 left her three clear of the field on 272, 16-under.
Playing partner Lee Mi-rim of South Korea (73) and Mo Martin of the US (70) shared second place, while Stacy Lewis of the US also carded a 70 to take fourth spot on 277.
Teresa Lu was the best-placed Taiwanese after a 71 saw her finish tied for 14th place on six-under 282, while former world No. 1 Yani Tseng (72) and Kaohsiung-born Candie Kung (74) finished in a group tied for 31st place three shots further back.
Ariya’s family and friends rushed onto the 18th green to celebrate victory by dousing the champion in sparkling water.
“It was hard today, I felt a little bit nervous at times,” Ariya said. “My mother cried at the end, she said thank you and that made my day. I think this victory is really important for me and Thai golf, and I hope I can inspire some players in Thailand.”
Ariya, who was only 11 when she appeared in her first LPGA Tour event, started Sunday’s back nine with a four-shot lead.
However, she began to feel understandably jittery when Lee grabbed a birdie hat-trick from the 10th and Ariya then took four shots to reach the green at the 13th and slumped to a double-bogey six.
“On 13 it was like: ‘Oh, what’s wrong with me,’” she said. “I felt a little bit nervous, but after that hole I didn’t feel like that.”
The Thai, who won three LPGA Tour events in a row in May, effectively sealed victory by sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th green.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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