Ariya Jutanugarn ascends to world No. 1 in dramatic fashion.
At least, barring another computer glitch, she should finally overtake Lydia Ko at the top of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.
Jutanugarn won the Manulife Classic on Sunday in Canada, rolling in a 25-foot birdie putt to defeat Lexi Thompson and In Gee Chun on the first playoff hole at Whistle Bear Golf Club in Ontario.
“Feel great,” a teary-eyed Jutanugarn said afterward. “Feel like I break through.”
It was Jutanugarn’s first victory this season, giving the LPGA 14 different winners in its first 14 events of the year.
Jutanugarn, who won five times as the LPGA Rolex Player of the Year last season, entered the week .01 average world ranking points behind No. 1 Ko, who wasn’t in the field. The new world rankings will be official with Monday’s posting. Jutanugarn was projected to go to No. 1 last week but a glitch in the WWGR projection tool created a mistake, keeping Ko at No. 1 for the 85th consecutive week.
“I think I’ll feel it on Monday,” Jutanugarn said when asked about finally ascending to world No. 1. “To be honest, I didn’t pay attention to the ranking.”
Jutanugarn, 21, was in tears afterward because she was stunned to win. She was five shots behind Thompson after making the turn to the back nine in the final round. More than that, Jutanugarn said she didn’t feel good about her game starting the tournament.
“I just can't believe I win the tournament,” Jutanugarn said. “I didn't expect anything at all, because, when I got here, I didn't feel comfortable with my swing. My tee shot not that good. I feel like, `Just go out and play golf for four days.’”
Jutanugarn closed an emotional day with a 3-under-par 69, leaving her at 17 under overall, equal to Thompson (72) and Chun (70). It was an unexpected finish with Thompson appearing to be in command going to the back nine. Thompson built a four-shot lead on Chun and five on Jutanugarn coming home but bogeyed four of the final seven holes when her wedge game and putting, two assets most of the week, let her down. Thompson was two ahead with two to play but finished with a pair of bogeys, three-putting the 17th and then missing a 4-footer for par for the win at the last.
The playoff featured the No. 2 (Jutanugarn), No. 4 (Thompson) and No. 5 (Chun) players in the world.
“Just struggled with the putter,” Thompson said. “I made everything, it seemed like, all week, and then, the last three holes, I had like a 5-footer, 6-footer, and about a 4-footer and missed them all.”
Still, with the second-place finish, Thompson continues to amass world ranking points with her run of strong play and looks poised to get in this battle for the No. 1 ranking. Thompson has a victory and three second-place finishes in her last six worldwide starts.
“I know where my game is at,” Thompson said. “Every time I tee it up, I know I'm trying to win, and I know I have a good chance of it.”
Chun, a two-time major champion, finished second for the fourth time this season and is also in this tightening mix for world No. 1.