Golf: Ariya takes US$1m LPGA season prize as Thompson wins finale

Lexi Thompson putts on the second green during the final round of the LPGA CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club on Nov 18, 2018 in Naples, Florida. PHOTO: AFP

MIAMI (AFP) - American Lexi Thompson won the LPGA's season-ending Tour Championship on Sunday (Nov 18), easing memories of a heartbreaking 2017 near-miss, while Thailand's top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn captured the US$1 million (S$1.37 million) season points bonus prize.

Thompson fired a two-under par 70 to finish 72 holes at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, on 18-under 270 and beat compatriot Nelly Korda by four strokes.

"It's very gratifying," Thompson said. "This is a special event for me growing up in Florida. It was so special to win in front of my family and friends." The last-chance victory extended Thompson's streak to six consecutive LPGA seasons with at least one triumph.

"This year has been very up and down but to end it like this is very special," Thompson said as she accepted the US$500,000 winner's prize.

Ariya closed out an epic season with an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to complete a final-round 66 to share fifth on 276.

"Before I putted I was thinking I wanted to make it to have a good feeling before I go into the off season," Ariya said. "And then I made it." Ariya, 22, began the week having already clinched LPGA Player of the Year and season prize money crowns after three victories this year.

In addition to the season prize, Ariya secured the Vare Trophy for the 2018 season's lowest scoring average and became the first player to sweep every major LPGA season award.

"It has been unbelievable," Ariya said. "I didn't expect to win anything like this.

"Feel great today. I'm really proud of myself." Last year, Thompson missed a two-foot par putt on the 18th hole to lose the Tour Championship to Ariya even though she took the 2017 US$1 million season points bonus.

This time, she didn't get the bonus but took a satisfying triumph, the 10th of her LPGA career and first since September 2017 at Indianapolis.

Thompson, 23, won her only major title at the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

After opening with a birdie, Thompson took a bogey at the par-4 fourth and birdied the par-3 eighth.

Thompson carried a two-stroke lead to the par-4 13th, when she sank a five-foot birdie putt and Korda took a bogey to fall four adrift.

Thompson stumbled with a bogey at the par-3 16th but Korda bogeyed as well. Both also birdied the par-5 17th and parred the 18th to maintain the final victory margin.

With a chance to match England's Charley Hull for the tournament record, Thompson missed a five-foot birdie putt at 18 but then sank a two-footer, just like the one she missed a year earlier, to seal victory.

South Korea's Ryu So-yeon and American Brittany Lincicome shared third on 275 with Ariya, American Marina Alex, New Zealand's Lydia Ko and Spain's Carlota Ciganda sharing fifth on 276.

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