Inbee Park shot a final-round 67 to complete a come-from-behind victory at Honda LPGA Thailand on Sunday that was full of drama until the final shot.
Park, the LPGA money leader in 2012, skipped the Australian Open last week but got her season off to a fast start by finishing the tournament at 11-under and claiming the $225,000 first-place check. That came despite not sharing so much as a share of the lead after any of the first three rounds, and trailing 17-year-old Bangkok native Ariya Jutanugarn by two shots when she finished her round.
Jutanugarn missed a birdie putt on the 17th hole, but still stepped to the tee at the par-5 18th holding a two-shot lead. Her second shot caught the front right bunker, and she had to take a drop and a one-stroke penalty for an unplayable lie. Jutanugarn's fourth shot went over the green and the fifth wound up on the fringe, but she still had a chance to force a playoff with a two-putt.
The teenager's first putt went about three feet past the hole, and she lipped out her attempt at double-bogey, completing a shocking freefall and handing Park the one-shot victory.
"On No. 17 when I missed that birdie putt I thought that this game might be over because she was at 14(-under) and it was a two-stroke lead coming into the last hole," Park said. "I knew she was a long hitter so she had a chance to go ahead. So yeah I just didn't expect this kind of finish. 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."
Jutanugarn, playing on a sponsor's exemption, held a two-shot lead entering the final round, and was four shots clear of Park. Park got off to a fast start and took the lead on the front nine, but Jutanugarn still appeared to be sailing toward becoming the third-youngest winner in LPGA history when she made a hole-in-one at the par-3 12th hole and birdied the 13th to take a three shot lead. Even a bogey on the 14th didn't appear likely to get in the way until Jutanugarn's victory march unraveled on the 72nd hole of the tournament.
"I'm so sad when I miss like a three-foot putt uphill (on the 18th hole)," said Jutanugarn. "It was a great experience. It's not like I just played not very good, (Park) played very good today and I just say congrats to her. She's a very nice player."
Park now has three wins in her past 12 events.
"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," Park 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."
World No. 1 Yani Tseng fired a 9-under round of 63 to tie the course record and rally to finish in a tie for third-place at 10-under. So Yeon Ryu and American Stacy Lewis, who led after each of the first two rounds, also finished at 10-under.