CAMBRIDGE, Ontario — Ariya Jutanugarn was seated by the scorer’s tent after finishing her final round Sunday, snapping selfies with In Gee Chun and thinking there was little chance they would return to the course for a playoff at the Manulife LPGA Classic.
A short time later, Jutanugarn was posing for pictures as winner of the Manulife LPGA Classic.
Lexi Thompson buckled down the stretch and missed a four-foot putt to win in regulation, forcing her to return to the 18th tee with Jutanugarn and Chun for a playoff. Jutanugarn found the rough with her drive but her approach was pin-high and she made a 25-foot birdie putt for her first victory of the season.
“I feel great, I feel like I broke through,” she said. “I feel like I waited for my first win this year for a while.”
The 21-year-old from Thailand is a virtual lock to move up one position Monday and knock Lydia Ko off her perch as the world’s top-ranked women’s player.
Jutanugarn earned USD $255,000 of the USD $1.7-million purse for the victory. She raised her hand to her mouth in shock after hitting the winning shot.
“I knew it was a good putt,” she said. “I didn’t know it was going to go in.”
Jutanugarn is the 13th different winner on the LPGA Tour this season. Her last victory came at the 2016 Canadian Pacific Women’s Open.
A five-time winner last year, she had three birdies over a four-hole stretch around the turn at Whistle Bear Golf Club. She closed with six straight pars for a 3-under-par 69 that left her at 17-under 271.
Thompson started the day with a one-shot lead and was up by four strokes after a birdie on No. 9. Four bogeys on the back nine did her in, with the final one coming when she three-putted on No. 18 to finish the round at 72.
“I had like a five-footer, six-footer, and about a four-footer and missed them all,” Thompson said of her last three holes. “If I made those I would have won, but that’s golf I guess.”
Chun finished the final round with a 70.
Jodi Ewart Shadoff (69) was one shot back in fourth place. Mi Hyang Lee (68) and Laura Gonzalez Escallon (67) were at 14 under.
Brooke Henderson, of nearby Smiths Falls, was the top Canadian. She finished six strokes back in a tie for 11th after a 71. Her round included an eagle, six birdies and six bogeys.
“Obviously I’m a little bit disappointed, but (tied for) 11th, I can’t complain too much,” Henderson said. “I feel like my game is so close to being so great.”
Alena Sharp, of Hamilton, started the day three shots behind Thompson but was unable to make a run. She had a double bogey on her final hole and finished seven strokes back after a 76.
Sharp, a co-leader after two rounds, was looking for her first victory in 246 career LPGA Tour starts.
“I played better today than yesterday,” she said. “Just hit one bad shot on the last (hole) and didn’t make any putts, so it’s kind of not sitting well at this moment.”
Manulife will not return as a sponsor next season. The LPGA Tour has said it hopes to return to the area and that is searching for a new title sponsor.