Ariya Jutanugarn took home the LPGA Manulife Classic victory on Sunday at Whistle Bear Golf Club in Cambridge, Ontario, after a surprise playoff.
The win was not easy or expected. The course was very windy and hot all weekend, and for much of the day it looked like the title would belong to Lexi Thompson. Thompson was leading after the third round and had a four-shot lead making the turn to the back nine.
Even after bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes, Thompson came to 17th tee with a two-shot lead and a good chance of winning her second tournament of the season. But her putting, which was her strength all week, let her down. After three-putting the 72nd hole, she had to join In Gee Chun and Jutanugarn, who had both finished at 17 under, in a playoff to decide the winner.
What might have been a long playoff, with 18 playing very tough all day, ended up lasting only one hole, as Jutanugarn sank a 25-foot putt for birdie. “I knew it was a good putt, but I didn’t know it was going to go in,” Jutanugarn said. Having left her birdie putt in regulation short of the hole, she was determined not to leave it short again. “I’m like, O.K., if I’m going to miss it, make sure it’s past the hole,” she said.
With the first two rounds yielding lots of low scores, including a course-record 62 from Perrine Delacour, it looked as though the tournament scoring record could be broken. But the wind kicked up, and with fast greens, scoring got tougher over the weekend.
Jutanugarn had a magical year last season with five wins and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year honors. After three runner-up finishes this season, she was thrilled to finally clinch a victory in 2017. “Feel like a break through,” she said afterward. “I feel like I wait for my first win this year for a while.”
With the win, Jutanugarn now becomes the No. 1 player in the world, a spot she narrowly missed out on last week by 0.01 points in the ranking system. Also with this win, Jutanugarn becomes the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour this season, at 21 years, six months, and 18 days. This is the sixth title of her career, and it’s not hard to picture her holding the top ranking for many weeks to come.
This was the third time that Whistle Bear Golf Club had hosted the LPGA Manulife Classic. Previous winners Suzann Pettersen, Caroline Masson, and now Jutanugarn have proven that it takes a tremendous player to win this title. Unfortunately this may be the last year for the event. Manulife has not renewed its sponsorship, leaving the future of the tournament at Whistle Bear in doubt.
For now, though, Jutanugarn definitely gains a lot out of the win, including the No. 1 world ranking. She urged young golfers to “follow your dreams and never give up.” She didn’t, and it’s led her all the way to No. 1 in the world!
Photograph by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images