CAMBRIDGE, Ont. – At about the halfway mark Sunday, it seemed like the winner of the Manulife LPGA Classic was going to be a forgone conclusion. But as is usually the case with golf, the unpredictable happened, and it was Ariya Jutanugarn who won in a playoff over In Gee Chun and Lexi Thompson at Whistle Bear Golf Club.
Thompson, whose lead reached four at one point Sunday, missed a four-footer on the final hole of the day to push the Manulife LPGA Classic into a playoff. In the first playoff hole, Thompson, after a booming drive, hit a poor chip and left herself a long putt off the green. She nestled that up close, but after Chun missed her birdie attempt, it was up to Jutanugarn for birdie, and she nailed it.
“I just can't believe I win the tournament,” said Jutanugarn. “When I got here I didn't feel comfortable to hit the golf ball and (I was) scared to hit my tee shot.
In blustery conditions, Jutanugarn fired a 3-under-par 69 Sunday, with just one bogey.
“I just (went) out - and today is really windy and pretty hard to make birdie and even hit on the green – I just (made) sure I'm committed to every shot and go out and have fun,” she said.
With the win, it’s likely Jutanugarn will ascend to No.1 in the Rolex Rankings, along with No.1 on the season-long Race to the CME Globe.
“To be honest, I didn't pay attention with the ranking. I only want to go out and have fun,” admitting with a smile her celebration plans tonight merely consist of her texting her sister, fellow LPGA Tour member Moriya Jutanugarn, and sleeping in her car while her caddy drives to Grand Rapids, Michigan.
For Thompson, it was the second playoff loss of the year, who is now 0-3 in playoffs in her LPGA Tour career. She was 3-under par for her opening nine holes but was four over on her back nine to shoot an even-par 72 Sunday.
She said she had struggled with her putting down the stretch.
“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. I had like a five-footer, six-footer, and about a four-footer and missed them all,” she said. “If I made those I would've won, but that's golf I guess.”
Thompson said it will take ‘a day or so’ to get over the playoff loss, but admitted it was ‘all right.’
Chun, meanwhile, has now finished runner-up four times on the season. She said she worked hard on her swing in the wintertime and it changed up a little bit.
“I think we’re almost there. Everything is good,” said Chun.
Brooke Henderson ended up as low Canadian on the week, finishing tied for 11th after a 1-under-par 71 Sunday. Alena Sharp shot a disappointing 4-over-par 76, while Brittany Marchand, who plays on the Symetra Tour full time but made the cut at Whistle Bear fell down the leaderboard after a 9-over-par 81.
“Today was a really tough day. Conditions were extremely difficult,” said Henderson, who has switched putters ‘five or six times’ so far this season. “I missed a lot of putts today. I know in the middle of the round I kind of got it going a little bit, which was nice.”
The LPGA Tour heads to Grand Rapids, Michigan next week for the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give.