The 2016 season on the LPGA Tour continues to be one dominated by the kids.
Ariya Jutanugarn, 20, became the first player from Thailand to win a women’s major when she survived a bumpy back nine at Woburn C.C. north of London to take the Ricoh Women’s British Open by three strokes over hard-charging Mirim Lee and short-hitting Mo Martin.
Jutanugarn closed with an even-par 72 for a 16-under 272 total. Her win marked the third time this year that an LPGA major was won by a player 20 or younger. Lydia Ko won the ANA Inspiration at 18 in April, the same age as Brooke Henderson when she took the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in May.
Lee, who shot a tournament-record 62 in the opening round on Thursday, was paired with Jutanugarn on Sunday and trailed by six strokes at the turn. She then began the back nine with three birdies and pulled within one when Jutanugarn double bogeyed No. 13.
“On 13, I’m like, ‘Oh, what’s wrong with me,’ ” Jutanugarn said. “But after that, I’m really patient and I can come back really good.”
Indeed, Jutanugarn dug deep and moved ahead by two with a birdie on No. 17 that pretty much wrapped it up.
“Feels great,” Jutanugarn said. “After my first tournament on tour, my goal is I really want to win a major, and I did, so I’m very proud of myself.”
Ko, Henderson and Jutanugarn are the three best in the women’s game right now, but Ariya might have the most complete game of all. Once again she played an LPGA event without a driver, using a 2-iron off most tees that that explodes with power. Jutanugarn made just one bogey the first 62 holes at Woburn, as she jumped from sixth to third in the Rolex Ranking.
Now she’s in a battle with Ko for Player of the Year. Both have four wins, including a major, and the Evian Championship next month, the final major, might go a long way in determining the winner.