Rookie Tavatanakit holds off Ko charge to win ANA Inspiration title

Ko carded women’s Major record 62 to get within two shots of winner at the end

After going to bed with the lead for three straight nights, Patty Tavatanakit was never going to look back.

Tavatanakit, the 21-year-old rookie from Thailand, shot a four-under 68 and completed a wire-to-wire victory on Sunday at the ANA Inspiration, the LPGA’s first Major of the season, at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.

By finishing at 18 under for the event, Tavatanakit (66-69-67-68) outlasted a furious charge by Lydia Ko, who set a women's Major record with a final-round 62. Ko settled for second place at 16 under.

Tavatanakit is the first rookie to win the Inspiration since 1984, and the first LPGA player to make the Inspiration her first career victory on the tour.

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“I just wanted to be done since this morning,” Tavatanakit said. “Didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, but I meditated twice this morning and just [stayed] patient. It was gonna be hard out here. I knew I gotta be really strong mentally.”

Tavatanakit, who entered the final round with a five-stroke lead, chipped in for eagle on the par-5 second hole. She added birdies on the eighth and 12th on her way to a bogey-free round.

Meanwhile, playing several holes ahead of the leader, Ko lit up the course. A birdie-eagle start to her round propelled the New Zealander to a 29 on the front nine, a new nine-hole scoring record for the event.

By the 11th hole, Ko had drained seven birdies and an eagle to threaten Tavatanakit’s lead, but she finished with just one birdie over her final seven holes.

Ko, 23, won the Inspiration in 2016 and was seeking her third Major title.

For her part, Tavatanakit did not engage in scoreboard-watching, saying she did not know how Ko had performed.

“At no point,” Tavatanakit said. “No, not even on the 18th.”

Four players tied for third at 11 under: American Nelly Korda, Nanna Koerstz Madsen of Denmark, Sei Young Kim of South Korea and Shanshan Feng of China.

One stroke behind in a tie for seventh were seven-time Major winner Inbee Park and Jin Young Ko, both of South Korea, and Ally Ewing of the US.

Stephanie Meadow moved up the leaderboard on the final day, carding five birdies and not dropping a shot to card a five-under 67 that saw her finish the week in a tie for 19th position on six under.

Leona Maguire finished up on four under after closing with a two-under 70 after rounds of 74 on Saturday and 73 on Friday had dampened a brilliant start after an opening 67.

Before the Inspiration, Tavatanakit’s best finish of the season was a tie for fifth at the Gainbridge LPGA in February.

On Sunday, she joined the long line of women to partake in the tradition of Inspiration champions to celebrate by jumping into Poppie’s Pond next to Mission Hills’ 18th green.

“It feels great to be a Major champion,” Tavatanakit said. “It still hasn’t really sunk in yet, the fact that I just turned 21 six months ago and now I’m a Major champion on my rookie year. Just crazy.”

Final scores

(USA unless stated, Par 72):

270 Paphangkorn Tavatanakit (Tha) 66 69 67 68

272 Lydia Ko (Nzl) 70 69 71 62

277 Sei-Young Kim (Kor) 72 71 68 66, Nelly Korda 71 70 70 66, Shanshan Feng (Chn) 67 69 72 69, Nanna Koerstz Madsen (Den) 72 68 71 66

278 Ind-Bee Park (Kor) 70 69 70 69, Jin-Young Ko (Kor) 69 70 71 68, Ally Ewing 71 70 66 71

279 Mi-Rim Lee (Kor) 69 70 68 72, Moriya Jutanugarn (Tha) 68 69 73 69, Megan Khang 68 73 71 67

280 Danielle Kang 72 70 73 65

281 Pernilla Lindberg (Swe) 72 72 69 68, Hannah Green (Aus) 71 71 70 69, Melissa Reid (Eng) 71 73 70 67, Mi-Hyang Lee (Kor) 73 71 68 69, Charley Hull (Eng) 69 69 71 72

282 Brooke Henderson (Can) 75 69 68 70, Gabriela Ruffels (Aus) 72 70 69 71, Yu Liu (Chn) 71 71 69 71, Stephanie Meadow (NIrl) 71 73 71 67, Christina Kim 70 70 73 69, Ryann O'Toole 71 71 72 68

283 Anna Nordqvist (Swe) 68 70 74 71, Min-Jee Lee (Aus) 72 70 74 67, Gaby Lopez (Mex) 73 67 70 73

284 Leona Maguire (Irl) 67 73 74 70, Jenny Shin (Kor) 71 74 72 67, Cristie Kerr 72 73 74 65, Azahara Munoz (Esp) 70 72 72 70, Lauren Stephenson 71 72 72 69, Yui Kawamoto (Jpn) 71 69 75 69, Hyo-Joo Kim (Kor) 72 73 70 69, Pajaree Anannarukarn (Tha) 71 69 71 73

285 Alexis Thompson 70 72 75 68, Georgia Hall (Eng) 69 70 77 69, Jessica Korda 69 76 68 72, Xiyu Lin (Chn) 72 72 73 68

286 Stacy Lewis 76 69 67 74, Angela Stanford 72 73 70 71, Mi-Jung Hur (Kor) 71 71 71 73, Austin Ernst 73 68 73 72, Amy Olson 73 69 73 71, Gerina Piller 70 72 71 73, Jaye Marie Green 71 71 70 74

287 Jeon-Geun Lee (Kor) 71 70 72 74, Hee-Young Park (Kor) 73 72 72 70, Maria Torres (Pur) 73 72 72 70

288 Som-Yeon Ryu (Kor) 72 72 68 76, Celine Boutier (Fra) 75 69 72 72, Amy Yang (Kor) 70 73 73 72, Bronte Law (Eng) 69 74 76 69, Yuka Saso (Phi) 69 71 77 71, Pornanong Phatlum (Tha) 70 75 71 72, Daniela Holmqvist (Swe) 70 70 74 74

289 Brittany Lincicome 73 70 73 73, Linnea Stroem (Swe) 75 69 68 77, Angel Yin 72 73 70 74

290 Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha) 68 75 76 71, Sophia Popov (Ger) 70 69 73 78, Jennifer Kupcho 69 72 77 72

291 Eun-Hee Ji (Kor) 72 72 76 71, Caroline Masson (Ger) 73 71 73 74, Kelly Tan (Mal) 71 73 76 71, Nicole Broch Larsen (Den) 71 74 73 73

292 Nasa Hataoka (Jpn) 75 69 74 74, Aditi Ashok (Ind) 73 72 75 72

293 Jennifer Song 72 72 74 75

294 Cydney Clanton 74 70 73 77, Kristen Gillman 72 73 74 75