June 12, 2017: 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.