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RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Even history couldn't stop Patty Tavatanakit on Sunday at the ANA Inspiration.
Lydia Ko shot one of the greatest final rounds in LPGA major championship history on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club, but all that did was put Ko within shouting distance of the dominant Tavatanakit.
Tavatanakit, a rising 21-year-old star from Thailand and UCLA, completed a wire-to-wire victory to make the major championship her first LPGA win. Starting the day with a five-shot lead, Tavatanakit did everything she needed to do on a warm, windless day in Rancho Mirage to hold onto the victory.
“It feels great to be a major champion," Tavatanakit said after taking the champion's leap into Poppie's Pond.
But Ko's heroics, scorching the Shore Course for a tournament-tying single-round record 62, included a tournament-record 29 on the front nine and kept the title in doubt until late in the day. In the end, though, Ko could get no closer to Tavatanakit than two shots.
Tavatanakit's 4-under 68 on Sunday gave her an 18-under 270 total, one shot shy of the event's scoring record of 19-under set in 1999 by Dottie Pepper.
"For some reason I am still calm," Tavatanakit said. "There is a calmness about me. I don't know why. Like I said, I just wanted to be done."
Tavatanakit said the victory accomplished her own goal of winning this year, but also accomplished her father's goal of his daughter getting into the top 100 in the Rolex World Rankings. At 103rd starting the week, Tavatanakit has the highest ranking of any winner of the ANA Inspiration since the rankings began.
Tavatanakit also insisted that she never knew what Ko was doing in front of her, focusing instead on her own game. And while she said she didn't putt well in the round, Tavatanakit said her 4-under 68 was still a good round.
Ko finished at 16-under, threatening on the back nine to shoot the second 59 in LPGA history until a string of six pars in her final seven holes.
Cruise control for final 18 holes
While Ko's round made the tournament interesting Sunday afternoon, the truth is Tavatanakit was in control of the tournament all the way. That was evident from the second hole when Tavatanakit's second shot on the par-5 trickled into the back rough, but she chipped the ball in for an eagle-3 that seemed to end all suspense for the day by giving her a brief seven-shot lead. A birdie on the par-3 eighth put Tavatanakit at 17-under for the tournament.
What Tavatanakit didn't know was that Ko was sizzling to a 7-under 29 on the front nine. That included a birdie-eagle start and four more birdies in the next seven holes. Having started the day eight shots back, Ko suddenly climbed to within three shots back.
"I don't think it was like there was an exact moment where I felt like, okay, this is going to be a good one," said Ko, 23, but a 15-time LPGA winner despite having not won since 2018. "Especially around a course like this, you just have to focus until that last putt drops in the last hole."
Birdies on the 10th and 11th holes put Ko in the middle of the chase at 15-under and just two shots back of Tavatanakit, but Ko's round slowed after that.
Tavatanakit, on the other hand, moved to 18-under with a one-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole. After that, Ko and Tavatanakit combined for just one birdie the rest of the round, a birdie by Ko on the par-4 15th.
While she finished with six consecutive pars, Tavatanakit saved two critical pars on the 14th and 17th, missing the green on both par-3s but making delicate chips on both holes.
With a two-putt on the final hole, Ko matched Lorena Ochoa's Shore Course-record 62 in the first round of the 2006 ANA Inspiration. Ko fell one shot short of the all-time LPGA major championship record of 61, set in the 2014 Evian Championship by Hyo Joo Kim.
Neither player went for the island green in two on the par-5 18th despite the 485-yard tees, both laying up and two-putting for routine pars.
Overshadowed by the brilliant golf at the top were some of the LPGA's biggest names who floated well behind the lead in a tight battle for third. Eventually, Nelly Korda, Sei Young Kim, Shanshan Feng and Nanna Koerstz Madsen all tied for third at 11-under, one shot ahead of Jin Young Ko, Inbee Park and Ally Ewing.
A smiling Ko said she was happy with the progress of her game under new coach Sean Foley, coming so close to breaking her winless streak and crawling back from so far behind Tavatanakit to start the day.
"It just shows it doesn't matter how far back you are, you can always go for it. As long as you have one hole in front of you, there is always a chance to make birdie or eagle," Ko said.
For Tavatanakit, who admits she didn't sleep too well Saturday night thinking about the potential win, the major title was tough to grasp.
"It's a little surreal right now," Tavatanaki said. "Right now it feels like all the hard work and the dedication trying to get better is paying off."
What a Sunday finish
Lowest rounds in an LPGA major all-time
61: Hyo Joo Kim (2014 Evian Championship)
62: Minea Blomqvist (2004 AIG Women’s Open)
62: Lorena Ochoa (2006 ANA Inspiration)
62: Mirim Lee (2016 AIG Women’s Open)
62: Lydia Ko (2021 ANA Inspiration)
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ANA Inspiration: Patty Tavatanakit edges Lydia Ko for first LPGA win