Ariya Jutanugarn survived a late scare to secure a memorable victory at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Woburn.
The 20-year-old from Bangkok lost this year’s first Major – the ANA Inspiration – when she bogeyed the last three holes to hand the title to Lydia Ko but this time she made no such mistake despite running up a double bogey on the 13th which momentarily saw her three shot lead over South Korea’s Mirim Lee cut to just one.
Jutanugarn had said after her third round 66 that she has learned from her set-back in California and she proved as good as her word after recovering to play her last five holes in one under par and to finish three shots ahead of first round leader Lee and 2014 champion Mo Martin on 16-under par 272.
Junatugarn’s win secures her a place in the record books as the first Thai player of either sex to win one of golf’s nine Major Championships.
A first prize of £310,838 edges her closer to Ko at the top of the LPGA’s official Race to CME Globe money list while her maiden Major victory is projected to move her up to third place on the Rolex Ranking behind only Ko and Canada’s Brooke Henderson.
The victory also signals a remarkable transformation for the Thai player who 12 months ago endured her tenth missed cut in a row at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry.
“This win means a lot to me,” an emotional Jutanugarn said moments after putting out on the last. “The last five holes were very hard after the six at the 13th but I also knew I could do it.
“I learned a lot from what happened to me at the ANA Inspiration and I think that helped today. After that hole I was a bit nervous but I tried to commit to every shot and not to worry about anything else.
“It’s a big day for me and also for golf in Thailand,” she added. “It has always been my goal to win a Major and I hope I can inspire some other Thai players to do the same.”
Lee was Jutanugarn’s closest challenger throughout the final round but a costly three-putt at the last saw her post a 73 and slip back into a share of second place with Martin on 275.
2013 champion Stacy Lewis closed with her third successive two under par 70 to claim fourth place on 11-under par 277 while fifth place was shared by 2009 champion Catriona Matthew, South Korea’s Ha Na Jang and Australia’s Karrie Webb who claimed the 1997 title the last time the Championship was staged at Woburn.
Early on the final morning Charley Hull gave her home fans something to shout about when she played her first 12 holes in seven under par before dropping four shots coming home to finish with a 69 for a five under par total of 283.
That final round summed an up-and-down four days for Hull during which she fired 18 birdies but also eight bogeys, one double bogey and one triple bogey.
“It was great fun,” said the 20-year-old from Kettering who now travels to the Olympics where she is representing Great Britain alongside Matthew. “I’ve enjoyed the whole week although I didn’t play quite as well as I wanted.
“Now I’m looking forward to Rio and another big event,” she added. “I’m buzzing for it. I’m excited. I’ve never played in South America before.”
Ireland’s Leona Maguire closed with a three over par 75 to win the race for the Smyth Salver awarded to the leading amateur who plays all four rounds of the Championship.
Maguire’s four under par aggregate of 284 was enough to see her finish five shots ahead of Curtis Cup colleague Bronte Law after the English international dropped three shots over her last four holes to card a 74 and finish in a share of 47th place on one over par 289.
“I’ve had a great week,” confirmed the Irish amateur who is another player bound for the Olympics. “I’d liked to have played better today but it’s a huge honour to win the trophy.
Spanish teenager Maria Parra was the third amateur to make the cut. She ended her challenge with a 76 to finish in 73rd place on 297.