LOS ANGELES: Ariya Jutanugarn fought off back nine nerves to par the 18th hole on
Sunday (Monday in Manila) and win the Yokohama Tire Classic, becoming the first Thai player to win on the LPGA Tour.
Ariya started the fourth round with a three-stroke lead and despite a roller-coaster ride she managed to close with an even-par 72 to claim her first victory.
“It was so tough. I can’t control anything. My legs were shaking, my hands were shaking,” Ariya said.
The 20-year-old from Bangkok finished at 14-under 274 to beat South Korea’s Amy Yang and Americans Morgan Pressel and Stacy Lewis by one shot and finally reach the winner’s circle after three top-10 finishes this year.
Yang had a 67, Pressel and Lewis both shot 68 as the trio finished tied for second at 13-under.
Ariya needed a par on the final hole to get the victory, and her drive on the 18th hole went into the left rough.
Her second shot fell short of the green but landed above a bunker. Ariya chipped to within five feet before sinking her par putt.
It wasn’t the way she drew it up, but Ariya finally broke through after a couple of near misses. She has twice held 54-hole leads but failed to convert those to wins.
Earlier this season at the ANA Inspiration, the first major of the year, she led by two shots with three to play in the final round but bogeyed her final three holes to lose to Lydia Ko.
Ariya was just 17 years old when she let a two-stroke lead with one hole remaining slip through her fingers at the 2013 LPGA Thailand. Her triple bogey resulted in her finishing one shot behind.
It was also a special win for another reason as her mom was in attendance on the US Mother’s Day. The Thai Mother’s Day is August 12.
“Thank you for my mom for being with me all the time to support me and happy Mother’s Day,” said Ariya.
Lewis, who has won 11 times on the LPGA Tour, has now gone 49 tournaments without a win. Her runner-up finish Sunday was her 11th-second-place finish during her title drought.
South Korean Ryu So-Yeon, who led after 36 holes, had a 72 and finished at 10-under 278. First round leader Laetitia Beck of Israel also shot 72 to finish with three others six shots back of Ariya.