Ariya Jutanugarn, 17, came close to winning her first LPGA event on Sunday at the Honda LPGA Thailand before losing by a shot after a triple-bogey on No. 18 to hand Inbee Park the victory.
Here are 5 Things to take away from Sunday’s final round:
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1. DISASTER AT THE 18TH: Good things tend to happen for Jutanugarn at the Honda LPGA Thailand. Despite being 17 and a Ladies European Tour rookie, Jutanugarn knows Siam Country Club’s Pattaya Course better than many of her professional opponents. The Thai native first played this event on a sponsor exemption in 2007 at the age of 11.
Jutanugarn had a three-shot lead after three rounds, and led eventual winner Inbee Park, No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, by four. Things were looking up when Jutanugarn made a hole-in-one at No. 12 and followed with a birdie at No. 13. The real shock came at No. 18, when Jutanugarn found a greenside bunker, took an unplayable, then blasted her shot over the green. Her chip came up short, and it took her three putts from there to find the hole. She lost to Park by one shot.
Jutanugarn said after the round that she was “so sad” when she saw the 3-footer for double bogey lip around the hole, but she kept her composure nonetheless.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “It’s not like I just played not very good, she played very good today and I just say congrats to Inbee. She’s a very nice player.”
Park’s final-round 67 matched 5-under final rounds from three other players, and was second only to Yani Tseng’s final-round 63. Park had six birdies in her first 11 holes, and her only bogey was at No. 14.
Park finished ahead of Jutanugarn, and watched in disbelief as Jutanugarn played the 18th.
“I just didn’t expect this kind of finish,” she said. “Out of all the other wins, this win just felt like it was not as much work this week. It was a lot easier this week for me.
“But I really want to congratulate Ariya for her fantastic golf the last four days. She has a lot of fans out here and she’s very talented. So I think I’ll be seeing more of her.”
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2. NOT ALL IS LOST: Sunday surely wasn’t without its heartbreak for Jutanugarn, but there are new perks with being a pro. The most obvious? The $140,305 check Jutanugarn gets to cash.
Jutanugarn and older sister Moriya, 18, played the Honda LPGA Thailand on a sponsor exemption again this year. Moriya, an LPGA rookie, also made the cut, but shot an uncharacteristic third-round 80 to drop down the leaderboard. She finished T-59.
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3. QUEEN OF THE FINAL ROUND: For the second consecutive week, World No. 1 Tseng lapped the field in the final round. Her final-round 63 in Thailand began with an eagle at the par-5 first. She had seven more birdies to get to 10-under 278 for the tournament and tie for third. Tseng was a two-time defending champion at this event.
“Hopefully next week I can start a little earlier and still finish strong,” Tseng said. “I feel like this is more like me. When I play my best I always finish strong on the weekend but last year at the end, on the weekend, I’m always struggling. But this is what I like to feel – to play aggressive and have fun and relax. Because today I go out there and I try to make birdie every hole.”
Tseng shot a final-round 7-under 66 at ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open last week to finish solo second.
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4. MAINTAINING FORM: Inbee Park keeps finding the winner’s circle. She is No 4 in the Rolex Rankings, behind Tseng, Na Yeon Choi and Stacy Lewis. Park is No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. The victory for Park gives her a one-for-one record for 2013. In Park’s last 12 starts, she has won three times and finished runner-up five times.
“I thought it would take some time for me to get back into the position that I was in last year and I was going to take it easy and go slow,” she said. “It just happened on the first tournament. It just feels like it’s the continuous of last year. I’ll just keep trying to keep up this play and hopefully have a few more wins this year.”
Park’s head-to-heard record is worth considering, especially when it’s compared to Tseng’s. Leading up to the Honda LPGA Thailand, Park had lost to 253 players in 32 events played in a 52-week period. Tseng played in eight fewer events in that same 52-week period, and had lost to 637 players. Park also is 14-2 against Tseng in their last 16 common events.
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5. KO WATCH: Few 15-year-olds are watched as intensely as Ko, but that’s what happens when an amateur player earns three professional victories by that age. Ko finished T-14 with Jessica Korda, Nicole Castrale, Jiyai Shin and Catriona Matthew.