SUNDAY, March 03, 2024

Atthaya holds her nerve in dramatic playoff for second title on LPGA Tour

Atthaya holds her nerve in dramatic playoff for second title on LPGA Tour

Young Thai golf professional player Atthaya Thitikul on Sunday pipped American Danielle Kang to win the 54-hole Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

It was the second time this year that the 19-year-old Thai teenage phenomenon had prevailed in a playoff on the LPGA Tour.

Atthaya shot 17-under and then beat Kang on the second extra hole after a final-round shootout that saw birdies, chip-in eagles, a couple of nervy misses, and a total of 15 players within five shots of the lead.

Atthaya, who shot 61 on Saturday and started the final round on Sunday with a one-shot lead, got off to a slow start, bogeying the par-5 second hole.

She made the turn at even par on the day. But she turned things around on the back nine with three birdies, none bigger than the 20-footer she rolled in on the par-3 17th. Atthaya didn’t realise it at the time, but that putt was to tie the lead with Kang.

“I didn’t see a leaderboard until 18,” Atthaya said. “I thought a par would be good enough [for the win].”

A playoff began on the par-3 15th, which sits next to the 18th green. Both players made pars and moved on to the difficult par-4 16th.

Atthaya hit a clutch approach shot to 8 feet from 153 yards. She drained that putt for birdie and the win.

“On the second hole [of the] playoff, I had a chance to make a birdie, because it was not that far. Then, in my mind, I just told myself, ‘Do your best, even if it's not going in. Just do the best you can,” Atthaya said.

Earlier in the year, Atthaya had won the JTBC Classic presented by Barbasol, also in a playoff. She was also the 2021 Player of the Year on the Ladies European Tour.

With the latest victory, she is projected to jump to No. 4 in the LPGA’s season-long Race to the CME Globe.