Jutanugarn wins at Kingsmill for back-to-back LPGA titles

Ariya Jutanugarn AFP PHOTO

Ariya Jutanugarn AFP PHOTO

WASHINGTON: Thailand’s Ariya Juta­nugarn held off Australia’s Su Oh on the back nine on Sunday (Monday in Manila) to win the LPGA Kingsmill Championship by one stroke and capture her second title in a row.

The 20-year-old from Bangkok became the first Thai player to win an LPGA title two weeks ago at the LPGA Classic in Alabama and made it back-to-back triumphs by shooting a four-under par 67 to finish 72 holes on 14-under 270.

Ariya said she found winning easier the second time around.

“A lot easier. I didn’t get nervous,” she said. “I didn’t get excited until the last putt.”

Ariya said she hopes her triumphs spark more Thai golfers and inspire others from her homeland to seek LPGA success.

“Right now we have a lot of players starting to play golf, a lot of juniors, and if I can inspire somebody, it’s really great,” she said. “I hope a lot of players come to the LPGA.”

Oh, a South-Korean born Aussie playing on the eve of her 20th birthday, fired a 65 to finish second, with South Korea’s Kim Sei-Young and American Gerina Piller sharing third on 272 after each shot 66 in the final round at Williamsburg, Virginia.

Oh’s only win came in February last year in only her second pro event when she captured the Ladies Masters in Australia. Piller had been seeking her first LPGA crown while Kim won three tour titles last year and this year’s Founders Cup in March.

After stumbling with a bogey at the par-3 second hole, Ariya answered with birdies at the par-5 third and par-4 fourth, added another at the par-5 seventh and closed the front nine with another birdie to reach 13 under.

Oh made an early charge to stay hot on Ariya’s heels with a birdie at the third, a three-birdie run ending at the seventh and another at the ninth.

“I’m very happy with how it went. I got off to a really good start and just kept it going until the end,” Oh said.

“It was just one shot at a time. In the middle I had a little bit of a flat with not too many birdies, but then I got it back going on the last five holes.”

A bogey at the 12th dropped Oh back but she birdied at the par-5 15th to again draw one adrift of Ariya.

Piller made a late bid after birdies on the second and fourth holes and another at nine to answer her lone bogey at the eighth. She also birdied the 11th, 14th and 16th holes to reach 12 under as well.

But Ariya birdied the 15th to reach 14-under. Oh answered with a 25-foot birdie putt at 18 to pull within one while Kim closed with back-to-back birdies to match Piller for third.

Ariya still had to finish the last three holes at par to avoid a playoff and she did just that with three pars to seal the victory.

The clutch stretch run showed just how much better Ariya was handling the late tension after she squandered a two-shot lead by closing with three bogeys in a row to lose in the year’s first women’s major, the ANA Inspiration.



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