Atthaya Thitikul won the NW Arkansas Championship Sunday for her second LPGA victory of her rookie season, and the second before her 20th birthday. She needed two extra holes to do it, as crowd favorite Danielle Kang chipped in for eagle on the 18th, giving her the momentary outright lead in the clubhouse, and holding up to tie Thitikul and force a playoff.
Kang was in fourth place to start the day, four strokes behind Thitikul, who took a one-stroke lead into the final round of the 54-hole event after firing a tournament record 61 on Saturday, the lowest round of her young LPGA career. But Kang, who missed much of the summer after revealing at the U.S. Women’s Open in June that she had been diagnosed with a spinal tumor, shot the low round of the day, a 64 that included a birdie on the 16th hole, and the improbable chip eagle on the par-5 finishing hole.
Thitikul finished in style, draining a 15-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole. The playoff started on number 15, and after each player made par, Kang missed her birdie putt from just off the green on the par-4 16th, Thitikul put an end to it. It was her third consecutive putt with a chance to win, having missed birdie putts on the 18th in regulation and on the 15th in the playoff that would’ve done it.
Thitikul became the fourth Thai player with multiple LPGA victories, joining Ariya (12) and Moriya (2) Jutanugarn, and Jasmine Suwannapura (2). “Of course I want to be the one that can . . . insprie [other Thai golfers] as well,” Thitikul said.
A visibly emotional Kang said she was just happy to be playing golf again. “I’m just really proud that I’m even here. So, obviously I wanted to win, but these are like tears of joy,” Kang said.
Thitikul’s second LPGA victory matches her Ladies European Tour record, where she has also won twice.
Kang has six LPGA wins, including a major win at the 2017 Women’s PGA Championship, but she has yet to win a playoff, with her record now standing at 0-3.
2021 Women’s U.S. Open Champion Yuka Saso was in second place entering the day, but her 5-over 76 dropped her into a tie for 32nd.
Thitikul will receive $345,000 for the victory; Kang will collect $214,000 for second.
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