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28 February 2024

Golf: Park wins in Thailand but tears for teen Ariya


Inbee Park won the Honda LPGA Thailand on Sunday in a day of high drama as local teen star Ariya Jutanugarn suffered heartbreak after fluffing a two-shot lead at the final hole.

The Korean world number four, who made a final-round 67 to finish the tournament 12-under at 276 (67-71-71-67), looked on in shock from the locker room as 17-year-old Ariya triple-bogeyed the last to lose by a single shot.

Ariya finished 11-under (69-66-70-72), with world number one Tseng Yani a shot further back (75-68-72-63) in joint-third with Korea's So-Yeon Ryu (68-68-74-68), American Stacy Lewis (63-69-76-70) and Beatriz Recari of Spain (68-68-72-70).

It was the cruellest of outcomes for the young Thai who captured hearts with courageous golf -- even making a hole-in-one on the 12th -- before tears as she left the final green to be consoled by her older sister and fellow pro golfer Moriya.

"I don't know what to say... I'm still shocked," said Park, who watched stunned as Ariya's misery unfolded at the final hole.

"Nobody expected this, but it's golf. She (Ariya) has played incredible golf over the last few days. I feel really bad for her to lose on the final hole... but it will be a big lesson to her."

Ariya, who only turned professional last month, looked set for a famous home victory with two shots in her favour as she teed-off at the par five last.

She hit a solid fairway, but then dropped a shot as she found the lip of the bunker and then missed the green as the pressure cranked up.

Needing a miracle putt to rescue the title, she completely scuffed from the rough and was then left horrified as her ball curled across the rim of the hole to leave her home title dream in tatters.

It was a day of flamboyant low-scoring golf with world number one Tseng Yani continuing her return to form by equalling the tournament best round of 63 to finish at 10-under.

The two-time defending champion said her "game is pretty good right now" after a dreadful 2012 which left her clinging to her number one status.

"I'm much more relaxed than last year... it's bringing an improvement. I'm smiling more and being more relaxed on the course."