Chonburi, Thailand – A missed 3-foot putt by a 17-year-old helped Inbee Park win the Honda LPGA Thailand by a single stroke on Sunday.
The world No. 4 Park shot a final-round 67 at Siam Country Club's Pattaya Old Course and found the clubhouse two strokes behind overnight leader and Thailand native Ariya Jutanugarn, who squandered a chance at becoming the third youngest winner in LPGA history when she triple-bogeyed the par-5 last.
Jutanugarn, who was playing this tournament courtesy of a sponsor invite, had a chance to force a playoff with a putt for double bogey, but the Ladies European Tour rookie's short roll lipped out and she settled for a final-round 72 and a second-place finish.
"On the 18th hole I was leading by two shots but anything could happen. I was thinking, well the worst is to bogey the 18th and I still win this tournament," admitted Jutanugarn, who broke into tears after the disappointing conclusion.
Park, meanwhile, ended at 12-under 276 and picked up her fourth career LPGA victory.
"I just didn't expect this kind of finish," said Park. "Out of all the other wins, this win just felt like it was not as much work this week. It was a lot easier this week for me."
Two-time defending champion Yani Tseng made a late bid to successfully defend her title with a tournament record-tying 63 on Sunday. The world No. 1 began the day tied for 24th place and ended knotted in third at 10-under with Stacy Lewis (70), Beatriz Recari (70) and So Yeon Ryu (68). Tseng finished second at last week's season-opening Handa Women's Australian Open.
"Hopefully next week I can start a little earlier and still finish strong," Tseng said. "I feel like this is more like me. When I play my best I always finish strong on the weekend."
The world No. 3 and 2012 LPGA Tour Player of the Year Lewis opened the tournament with a 63 and held a 3-stroke lead through 18 and 36 holes.
Na Yeon Choi, ranked second in the world, shot a final-round 68 and finished alone in seventh place at 9-under, while Shanshan Feng (69) and Lizette Salas (70) tied for eighth at minus-8.
I.K. Kim (67) and Gerina Piller (70) ended at 7-under, one stroke ahead of Amy Yang (70) and Lexi Thompson (69).
Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old amateur who recently won the New Zealand Women's Open to become the youngest victor in Ladies European Tour history, ended tied for 14th at 5-under. The young phenom, who has three professional victories to her name, turned in rounds of 69, 71, 74 and 69. She was coming off a third- place finish in Australia.
Last week's winner Jiyai Shin (70), Jessica Korda (69), Nicole Castrale (70) and Catriona Matthew (71) also ended at 5-under.
Park opened her final round with birdies on Nos. 1 and 5, but Jutanugarn matched the feat to remain four shots up in the early going. The former continue to apply the pressure, getting within a single stroke at the turn courtesy of birdies on the seventh and ninth and a bogey by the Thai teen on No. 8.
A pair of birdies to start her inward nine had Park up a shot, but Jutanugarn emphatically answered with a hole-in-one on the par-3 12th to quickly regain the lead.
"It just made me feel confident because before that hole I wasn't very confident," Jutanugarn said of her hole-in-one.
Jutanugarn birdied the next hole to go ahead by two and after both players bogeyed the 14th, the 17-year-old appeared poised to secure the unexpected win.
Park ended with four straight pars and Jutanugarn maintained her edge entering No. 18 with a trio of pars. But the LET rookie encountered trouble throughout the final hole and when her 3-foot putt lipped out, Park had her first win since the capturing the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia title in October.
"My second shot was down the slope and I just had to drop. My fourth shot went over the green and then the putt short is very normal because that's a very hard shot. I'm so sad when I miss like a 3-foot putt uphill," said Jutanugarn.
NOTES: With the win, Park moved to 37th on the LPGA Career Money List with $5,492,724. She has earned $225,000 this season and sits first on the 2013 LPGA Official Money List ... Jutanugarn won the LET Final Qualifying Stage to earn status on the tour for 2013. Her sister Moriya, an LPGA rookie finished 9-over 297 ... Last year's runner up and 2010 champion Ai Miyazato ended at 3- under.