WOBURN – Thailand has a major champion.
On Sunday at Woburn Golf Club, 20-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn captured her first major title at the RICOH Women’s British Open. With her victory, Jutanugarn becomes the first player, male or female (from Thailand) to win one of golf’s major championships. She carded a final round even par, 72 to win by three at 16-under par ahead of Mirim Lee and Mo Martin.
Jutanugarn slept on the 54-hole lead for the first time Sunday evening, enjoying a two-stroke lead ahead of first and second round leader Mirim Lee. She started her final round at 16-under par, within striking distance of the 19-under par Tournament scoring record set by Karen Stupples at the 2004 RICOH Women’s British Open. She extended her lead to as may as five-strokes over the course of the round ahead of Lee and Mo Martin but began to struggle at the turn. Jutanugarn dropped her first shot of the day at the par 4, ninth hole, followed by a double bogey at the par 4, 13th hole to drop her lead to one ahead of Lee. But she rebounded with a birdie at the par 3, 17th by draining a putt for nearly 20-feet to take a two-stroke lead heading to the final hole.
"I think I got mad after that hole," Jutanugarn said laughing about the 13th hole. "My caddie helped me a lot. He tried to calm me down, slow me down. And after I make double, my fairway iron so good. I went -- I have more confidence because I commit and it come out really good."
Click here to watch Jutanugarn's final round highlights.
This past two years have been a learning process for Jutanugarn. The 2015 rookie got off to a hot start in her career on the LPGA Tour, earning her way into a playoff in her first event as a member. But she struggled midway through the season, missing ten consecutive cuts during the year. Having learned from those experiences, Jutanugarn came into the 2016 season a new player. She nearly captured the season’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, but stumbled down the closing stretch by making bogey on her last three holes to finish fourth behind champion Lydia Ko. Learning to manage her emotions became her biggest takeaway from the loss.
Letting go of the pressure and focusing on having fun, Jutanugarn broke through in May at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic for her first win on Tour. As is the case for many players who get their first win, the ability to win again gets easier and she didn’t wait long. Jutanugarn won the next two events, the Kingsmill Championship and LPGA Volvik Championship to sweep the entire month of May on the LPGA Tour, perfect for a player whose family gave her the nickname of May. Jutanugarn held the 54-hole lead in each of her three victories, experiences that served her well on Sunday at Woburn where she maintained her lead despite mistakes down the closing stretch.
"Before today, I think it's helped me a lot, but after ANA, I'm still really nervous," Jutanugarn told the media. "But I'm pretty sure I learned a lot from that, also, because like after I feel nervous, I know what I have to do. Like last few holes, I tried to be patient and to commit to my shots."
Mirim Lee finished second at 13-under par with Mo Martin. Stacy Lewis is fourth at 11-under par.