Inbee Park edges Jutanugarn for LPGA Thailand win

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South Korea’s Inbee Park struck a superb five-under par 67 for an aggregate 12-under total to capture the 2013 Honda LPGA Thailand title on a drama filled final day at Siam Country Club Old Course, Sunday, Feb. 24.

Park’s victory however was overshadowed by the theater provided by her nearest challenger, 17-year old Ariya Jutanugarn from Thailand.  Carrying a two shot lead to the 18th hole and requiring only a bogey or better to win her first tournament as a professional on the LPGA Tour, Jutanugarn’s dreams of glory on home soil spectacularly unraveled as she proceeded to take a triple-bogey eight on the par-5, thus gifting the title to her Korean rival who was watching on in disbelief from the clubhouse.

Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn (2nd left) collects her hole in one prize from tournament sponsors Honda.Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn (2nd left) collects her hole in one prize from tournament sponsors Honda.

“I didn’t expect to win it.  When I missed the birdie opportunity at the 17th I thought it was all over for me,” confessed Park afterwards.  “At the turn I thought I was in with a chance, but at 15 I was three behind so I just kept on trying.”

Jutanugarn had started the day with a three-shot cushion over the field and although Park had briefly held the lead after a birdie at the 11th, a spectacular hole-in-one by Ariya at the 12th saw the Thai take charge and she had moved to two in front by the 18th.  Disaster struck for the Thai teenager however when her second shot plugged right under the lip of a bunker and forced her to take a penalty drop.  Her escape from the bunker then overshot the green, but she still had two strokes to win the title and three for a playoff.

Using her putter, her first shot from the fringe didn’t get on the green and her ensuing downhill putt just slid past the hole, leaving a two-foot putt to force the playoff.  For the first time in 72 holes the occasion seemed to overwhelm Jutanugarn and her nervous putt lipped out to give Park the title.

“If I had been in Ariya’s position I would have been very nervous.  She had handled the pressure very well for all four days.  She is very talented and played some fantastic golf,” said a magnanimous Park.

The gallery around the 18th green gasps as Jutanugarn misses a short putt to force a playoff.The gallery around the 18th green gasps as Jutanugarn misses a short putt to force a playoff.

“After the hole-in-one and the birdie I thought it was going to be my day,” said a tearful Jutanugarn later.  “I had to take the penalty drop (on the 18th) and my bunker shot went over the green.  I still thought I could win or at least force a playoff, but it wasn’t to be.  I just had one bad hole – the 18th.”

Ariya saved her final words for the thousands of Thai fans who packed the large gallery. “I have to thank the fans for their fine support.  They were great.”

After appearing to be out of it for the first three rounds, defending champion and world No 1. Yani Tseng was back to her supreme best on the final day, shooting a stunning nine-under 63.  The Taiwan star shared third place with Spain’s Beatriz Recari (70), Korea’s So Yeon Ryu (68) and American Stacy Lewis (70) who had led the tournament for the first two rounds.

Alone in seventh place was world No 2 Na Yeon Choi of Korea (68) while a further shot back was China’s Shanshan Feng (69) and Lizette Salas (70) of the US.  Leading amateur, New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, played steadily once again with a 69 to finish in joint 14th place.

(Source LPGA Thailand)

/ South Korea’s Inbee Park holds up the champion’s trophy after winning the 2013 Honda LPGA Thailand Championship at Siam Country Club, Pattaya, Sunday, Feb. 24.South Korea’s Inbee Park holds up the champion’s trophy after winning the 2013 Honda LPGA Thailand Championship at Siam Country Club, Pattaya, Sunday, Feb. 24.

Inbee Park tees off during the final round of the Honda LPGA Thailand golf championship.Inbee Park tees off during the final round of the Honda LPGA Thailand golf championship.

Defending champion Yani Tseng hits an approach to the 18th green during her final round 63.Defending champion Yani Tseng hits an approach to the 18th green during her final round 63.