Steady Thidapa Suwannapura holds off veteran challengers for first win at Marathon Classic

SYLVANIA, OH - JULY 15: Thidapa Suwannapura of Thailand walks to the green on the 18th hole with her caddie, Nikki Desjubha, during the final round of the Marathon Classic Presented By Owens Corning And O-I at Highland Meadows Golf Club on July 15, 2018 in Sylvania, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images) Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Steady Thidapa Suwannapura holds off veteran challengers for first win at Marathon Classic

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Steady Thidapa Suwannapura holds off veteran challengers for first win at Marathon Classic

Thidapa Suwannapura finished strong during the final round of the Marathon Classic, with an eagle at the par-5  17th and birdie at the par-5 18th. She just didn’t think it was going to be enough.

A birdie at the last got Suwannapura to 14 under for the week, but 54-hole leader Brooke Henderson teed off an hour after Suwannapura in the final pairing and stood 15 under through 14. Brittany Lincicome also looked poised to take the title at 14 under through 12. All Suwannapura could do was watch.

“Pretty much I just chilled out,” Suwannapura said. “I think the luck was on my side.”

Henderson made back-to-back bogeys at 15 and 16 and couldn’t take advantage of the dual par-5 finish, slipping to solo third at 13 under. Lincicome couldn’t manage another birdie over her final six holes either, pitting her in a playoff with Suwannapura.

That’s how the 25-year-old from Thailand picked up her first LPGA victory in stunning fashion, capitalizing on good fortune with a birdie at the first playoff hole to take down Lincicome, an eight-time winner.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a while, and I didn’t think it was going to happen today,” Suwannapura said. “I just kept trying my best and hopefully it (works) out, and today is the day.”

Lincicome hadn’t really been in contention since winning the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and, despite 14 years of pro experience, said nerves were a factor down the stretch. In that sense it was a good warm-up for this week’s Barbasol Championship, where Lincicome has a sponsor’s exemption and will try to become the first woman to ever make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

“I was thinking about it today,” Lincicome said. “Those last couple holes coming down the stretch for the men’s event next week, I can’t imagine how nervous I’m going to be if this is how nervous I am in Toledo, Ohio. … It is what it is. Juli Inkster told me if I wasn’t nervous, I’m not human. So you just don’t care. I still have the drive. I still want to compete. I still want to be the best that I can be. And I guess if I didn’t have the nerves, I should probably give up the game.”

Suwannapura kept her nerves under control, likely in part because it didn’t seem likely her 14-under 270 total at Highland Meadows would hold up against Lincicome and Henderson.

“Sometimes golf is weird,” Henderson said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way, and that was kind of me the last four holes.”

Tournament golf is especially weird because performances swing so drastically week to week, which is part of the appeal in the first place.  A Cleveland Browns team riding a six-game losing streak is never going to go into Gillette Stadium and beat the Patriots. But Suwannapura, who had made just 11 of 20 cuts with no top-15s this season, came to Ohio and took out her more accomplished peers in dramatic fashion.

“I never expected it was going to be today,” Suwannapura said. “I’ve just been struggling the whole year and tried to, like, keep my Tour card and try my best. Finally all my work I’ve been doing has come out and shown up today.” Gwk

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