China’s Feng outguns Ariya to claim Thornberry Creek Classic

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Feng Shanshan scorched her way through the final round of the LPGA Tour’s Thornberry Creek Classic yesterday with a nine-under-par 63 to win a shootout by one stroke over Ariya Jutanugarn.

China’s Feng outduelled Ariya on the back nine, matching her closing birdie putt with one of her own from three feet to claim her first victory in 20 months and the 10th of her career.

Feng rolled in four birdies in her final six holes to reach a 29-under 259 total which is close to what she was shooting for at the start of the week.

“I was aiming for 30 under, that was my goal,” Feng said. “The last putt was a lot of pressure but I just told myself to make another good putt.”

Former world number one Feng’s previous best finish this year was a tie for fourth at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.

Shanshan Feng hits her tee shot during the final round of the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic. – AFP

Ariya, who was playing in the group in front of Feng, capped her eight-under 64 round with a two foot birdie putt on 18 to tie Feng at 28 under and set up a dramatic finish.

“I was walking up the green and I thought I had it but then I looked up at the scoreboard and realised I have got to make this putt,” said Feng, who used a seven iron to hit her approach on 18 to just three feet.

Ariya, of Thailand, had a three-shot lead at one stage on the back nine until Feng made her move on the soft Thornberry Creek course.

“Overall, my whole week was really good,” Ariya said. “It’s like amazing, because I didn’t expect to play that good at all, so I’m really happy about how I played.”

Feng’s 29-under was two shots shy of the LPGA record that Kim Sei-young set last year at the course just outside of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“This is not my last win for sure. I want to win as many as I can,” Feng said.

South Korea’s Amy Yang shot a 65 and finished in a tie for third at 25 under with American Tiffany Joh, who shot 67.

Kim Hyo-joo fired a eight under 64 to finish alone in fifth, five shots back of Feng.

World number one Park Sung-hyun was tied for the lead with Feng and Ariya heading into the final round, but she failed to make a back nine charge and shot 69 for the second straight round.

Park finished in a tie for sixth with Korean-American teenager Yealimi Noh who was trying to become just the third Monday qualifier in history to win an LPGA tournament.

Noh, who turns 18 on July 26, had a finishing round of 68 in her first start as a professional.

She played her first two rounds alongside an amateur whom she beat by 73 shots and then found herself in a tense third-round battle with playing partner and world number one Park.

Patty Paphangkorn Tavatanakit, who also turned pro this year, shot an 11-under 61 to break the 18 hole scoring record at the event. Tavatanakit made five birdies and three eagles in her round and finished in a tie for 15th.

The Thailand rookie was one of several unheralded players that benefitted from the relaxed scoring conditions this week at the Legends Championship Course.

This was Tavatanakit’s third LPGA tournament of the year and fourth in her career. Tavatanakit had shot just one round below par this year heading into this week’s event.