MIAMI • Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn closed with back-to-back birdies to win the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship on Sunday, while American Lexi Thompson took the US$1 million (S$1.36 million) season bonus prize despite a last-hole heartbreak.
Ariya birdied four of the last six holes, sinking a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th and a 23-footer at the 18th, to card a final-round five-under 67 and finish 15-under overall at Tiburon Golf Club in Florida.
"My caddie told me to look at the leaderboard so I did and I was like, 'Oh shoot I need to make this putt'," Ariya said of her closing dramatics.
"I was so nervous my hands were shaking and I started crying after I made it. This week, to be honest, I had no expectations at all. I really wasn't thinking about the outcome. I thought only about the things I could control. And I had so much fun this week."
Thompson and compatriot Jessica Korda both shot 67 and shared second, just one stroke adrift.
It appeared Thompson would take the title, with only a two-foot tap-in par putt at 18 to reach the clubhouse on what proved to be the winning score. But the world No. 4 missed, the ball lipping off the right edge, as she settled for the Race to the Globe season bonus prize.
"It wasn't obviously a very long putt. I guess maybe just a little bit of adrenaline... Crazy things happen like that," Thompson said.
Ariya, meanwhile, joined the leaders on the penultimate green, then topped her feat with only the fourth birdie of the day at the last.
It was the 2016 British Open champion's seventh career LPGA title and her second of the year after the Manulife Classic in June. She plans to take the US$500,000 winner's check to Thailand and celebrate her 22nd birthday with her family on Thursday.
Thompson was the top finisher among the five players who could have ensured the US$1 million by winning in Naples, the rich prize soothing the sting of defeat.
"It definitely eases it," she said. "It's definitely not the way I wanted to finish the event but there are a lot of positives to take from it."
Thompson also captured the Vare Trophy for the LPGA's lowest scoring average for the season.
The LPGA Player of the Year award was shared for the first time, with South Koreans Park Sung Hyun (69) - also the LPGA Rookie of the Year - and Ryu So Yeon (72) being named co-winners.
US Women's Open champion Park matched Nancy Lopez as the only players to win top player and rookie awards in the same year.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS