Ariya Jutanugarn once again etched her name into the record books after claiming her first major title at the RICOH Women’s British Open. With a final round 72, Jutanugarn becomes the first male or female golfer from Thailand to win a major championship. It marks her fourth career victory and her fourth this season. She’s projected to move to No. 3 in the world, the highest rank of her career.
The 20-year old from Bangkok edged Mirim Lee of South Korea and American Mo Martin by three shots and finished at 16-under par atop the leaderboard.
“Feels great,” said Jutanugarn. “After my first tournament on Tour, my goal is I really want to win a major, and I did, so I’m very proud of myself.”
It seemed like Jutanugarn had a strong hold on winning without issue after her second birdie in her first six holes to get to 18-under par and to extend her lead to six shots. A bogey on No. 9 dropped her to 17-under while Mirim Lee made a surge after the turn. Lee made three consecutive birdies on Nos. 10-12 to cut the lead to three.
Things started getting very interesting on the par 4, 12th hole when Jutanugarn found herself in trouble with her tee shot. She pulled it, landing between two trees and punched out over the elevated green. She sailed her third shot over the green and chipped to 10 feet and failed to convert her bogey putt, dropping two shots and cutting the lead to just one.
“I did, on 13, I’m like, oh, what’s wrong with me,” said Jutanugarn. “But after that, I’m really like be patient and I can come back really good.”
Lee had some unraveling herself on the next hole – the par 4, 16th - when she pulled her tee shot into the deep brush and needed to punch out sideways. She hit her third shot to seven feet and sank the par putt for an impressive save to stay within one shot with two holes to play.
But on the par-3, 17th hole, Jutanugarn put the pressure on Lee after hitting her tee shot to 20 feet. Lee missed her long birdie putt while Jutanugarn sank hers to extend the lead to two shots with one hole to play. She said she struggled with her putter throughout the round but saved the best putt for the best time.
“Actually I really want to make myself happy -- because I miss a lot of putts,” said Jutanugarn. “I feel like, come on, just make one.”
Jutanugarn will next head to Rio de Janeiro to represent Thailand in the Olympics Games with a major championship to her name. It’s a pertinent question of what a major title and even an Olympic medal could do for Thai golf. She said after playing four consecutive weeks, she’s looking forward to some rest when she returns to Thailand for eight days then will focus on preparing for the Games.
“To me right now, I play four week in a row already, so I really want to rest, and maybe practice,” said Jutanugarn. “I still want to practice, because I really want to play good in Rio.”
Aussie legend Karrie Webb sealed her best finish in a major championship since her second place finish at the 2014 Evian Championship. The 41-year-old shot a final round 71 to finish in a tie for 5th place breaking a run of 3 straight missed cuts at an event she has won twice. It is Webb's 2nd top 10 finish in 2016, her other being at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open where she finished in 3rd place.
Fellow Queenslander Sarah Jane Smith continued her solid form finishing tied for 17th place, while Minjee Lee had another solid week finishing T25th. Su Oh had a disappointing weekend and finished in a tie for 70th place.
For final results go to http://www.lpga.com/leaderboard
Follow ALPG on Twitter @ALPGTour Instagram alpgtour and Facebook Australian Ladies Professional Golf