Pajaree Anannarukarn of Thailand capped off the longest week on the LPGA Tour with a 3-and-1 victory Sunday to win the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play over Ayaka Furue of Japan.
The Thai kept up the pressure on a hot day north of Las Vegas, with both players carrying umbrellas under a bright blue sky to fend off the sun. But right when it looked as though fatigue was setting in from playing seven matches in five days, they produced some of their best shots.
Furue simply couldn’t catch up, and finished runner-up for the second straight year.
“Match Play is taking a lot of energy throughout the week,” Anannarukarn said. “I’m really soaking it in right now. It’s been a great week, and I’m grateful for everything.”
You know she meant for that to happen!<a href=”https://twitter.com/MeawPajaree?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@MeawPajaree</a> has birdied hole-14 three matches in a row! <a href=”https://t.co/W4XAwGiuWX”>pic.twitter.com/W4XAwGiuWX</a>
The match ended on the par-3 17th when Anannarukarn drilled her tee shot to a right pin about 6 feet to the right of the hole and Furue found a back bunker. Furue’s bunker shot hit the left side of the hole — had it hit the pin it might have dropped — and rolled out some 12 feet. She conceded the match.
Anannarukarn won for the second time on the LPGA Tour, and the first time since ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland in 2021, a tournament co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour.
Two days ago, it looked as though she might get eliminated. Anannarukarn lost on the 18th hole to Karis Davidson of Australia, forcing a sudden-death playoff. Anannarukarn hit a tee shot that sank deep into a divot in the first cut. She hit perhaps her most important shot of the week, gouging it out and onto the green to win with a par.
WATCH l Canada’s Szeryk comes just short of advancing on Friday:
In the knockout stage, she took out Solheim Cup stalwart Carlota Ciganda and then Cheyenne Knight of the United States in the quarterfinals. She made eight birdies against Grant in the semifinals, superb golf considering the fast, firm conditions of Shadow Creek.
Furue took out Leona Maguire of Ireland in the semifinals, another star from the last Solheim Cup, and grabbed an early lead against the Thai in the championship match until the first of several mistakes by both players.
But the temperature was rising and the wind picked up. Anannarukarn and Furue each made only one birdie through 11 holes, and the Thai missed short birdie putts on the eighth and ninth hole that could have expanded her lead.
“The wind picked up a lot. I think I used up all my birdies,” Anannarukarn said. “I really tried hard. I missed a couple of putts, I shanked one out of the bunker. It’s golf, and I really tried. I’m glad I was able to play decent enough.”
After 116 holes over five days, your <a href=”https://twitter.com/LPGAMatchPlay?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@LPGAMatchPlay</a> Champion is <a href=”https://twitter.com/MeawPajaree?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@MeawPajaree</a>!🏆 <a href=”https://t.co/zQ7KSiqFLt”>pic.twitter.com/zQ7KSiqFLt</a>
The finishing kick was special.
Back came the Thai on the 14th, using the firm ground to her advantage on a back right pin. The ball bounded across the green to the edge of the green, then trickled back the other direction with the slope to 2 feet for a conceded birdie to regain her 2-up margin.
They halved the 15th with bogeys, the 16th with pars, and then Anannarukarn put her away with a winning tee shot on the 17th.
Anannarukarn is the first Thai winner on the LPGA Tour this season, a country so strong that it won the International Crown two weeks ago without Anannarukarn on the four-player team.