Win gives Ariya top ranking

Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand mimics taking a selfie after sinking a birdie putt on the first play-off hole to win the Manulife LPGA Classic at Whistle Bear Golf Club, her first title of the year.
Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand mimics taking a selfie after sinking a birdie putt on the first play-off hole to win the Manulife LPGA Classic at Whistle Bear Golf Club, her first title of the year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Thai wins three-way play-off to shake off any doubt about replacing Lydia Ko as world No.1

TORONTO • There is no mistake this time - Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn is the new world No. 1 golfer.

A week after a computer glitch unexpectedly kept her behind New Zealand's Lydia Ko in the world rankings, the 21-year-old ascended the summit in style yesterday after winning the Manulife LPGA Classic.

She drained a 25-foot birdie putt to win a three-way play-off on Sunday, outlasting American Lexi Thompson and South Korean Chun In Gee in Cambridge, Ontario.

The Thai's dramatic victory at Whistle Bear Golf Club came after Thompson stumbled with four bogeys on the back nine, which saw her four-shot lead evaporate.

On the first play-off hole, Thompson looked to have recovered her composure when she crushed a long tee shot 50 yards further than Ariya and Chun.

Ariya, who had under-hit her tee shot into the fairway rough, hit her second onto the green.

Both Chun and Thompson then missed long birdie putts, leaving Ariya with her shot at glory which she duly converted.

"I feel great, I feel like I broke through," Ariya said after winning her first title this season and the sixth of her career. "I feel like I waited for my first win this year for a while. I knew it was a good putt. I didn't know it was going to go in."

She carded a closing three-under 69 in windy conditions, while Thompson shot 72 and Chun 70 to join Ariya at 17-under 271.

Thompson was left reflecting on her third defeat in a play-off this year after she looked to be cruising to her second title of the season.

The 22-year-old had opened up a four-shot lead by the 11th hole, but back-to-back bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes gave her rivals hope before Thompson recovered with a birdie on the par-four 15th.

However, she lipped out a five-foot putt at the penultimate hole and missed a four-footer to win it at the last.

"I made everything it seemed like all week, and then just two last putts I guess on the last two holes - actually last three holes," she said.

"I had like a five-footer, six-footer, and about a four-footer and missed them all."

Her disappointment was in stark contrast to Ariya's joy.

The Bangkok native put her right hand to her mouth in disbelief and then burst into tears after ending a run of 20 starts without a win.

Victory erased all doubts over whether she would be South-east Asia's first top-ranked golfer.

She also rose to No.1 on the season-long Race to the CME Globe.

"To be honest, I didn't pay attention to the ranking," she said. "I only wanted to go out and have fun."

She did not have grand celebrations in store either.

She revealed that she would be getting some sleep in the car while her caddie drove her to Grand Rapids, Michigan for this week's LPGA event - the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give.

"I think I'll feel it on Monday," she quipped.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2017, with the headline 'Win gives Ariya top ranking'. Print Edition | Subscribe