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Back-to-back birdies give Ariya LPGA Tour Championship win

By AFP
media Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand plays a shot on the sixth hole during the final round of the LPGA Tour Championship on November 19, 2017 in Naples, Florida GETTY/AFP

Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn closed with back-to-back birdies to win the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship on Sunday, while American Lexi Thompson took the $1 million season bonus prize despite a last-hole heartbreak.

Ariya birdied four of the last six holes, sinking a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th and a 23-footer at 18, to shoot a final-round five-under par 67 and finish 15-under overall at Tiburon Golf Club in Florida.

Thompson and compatriot Jessica Korda shared second, just one stroke adrift, with Sweden's Pernilla Lindberg and South Korean Ji Eun-Hee tied for fourth a shot further back.

It appeared Thompson would take the title, needing only a two-foot tap-in par putt at 18 to reach the clubhouse on what proved to be the winning score.

But the world number four missed, the ball lipping off the right edge, as she settled for the Race to the Globe season bonus prize.

Thompson was the top finisher among the five players who could have ensured the $1 million by winning in Naples.

"It is very special," Thompson said. "It has just been an incredible week."

Ariya, meanwhile, joined the leaders on the penultimate green, then topped her feat with only the fourth birdie of the day at the last for the title.

It was the former British Open champion's seventh career LPGA title and her second of the year after the Manulife Classic in June, having won five in 2016.

Thompson picked up four birdies on the front nine, before adding two more at at 13 and 17 before her nightmare closing bogey.

Ariya opened with her lone bogey, bounced back with birdies at four and six and then birdied 13 and 14 before her finishing heroics.

The LPGA Player of the Year award was shared for the first time, with South Koreans Park Sung-Hyun -- also the LPGA Rookie of the Year -- and Ryu So-Yeon being named co-winners.

US Women's Open champion Park matched Nancy Lopez as the only players to win top player and rookie awards in the same year.

 
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