CHAMPIONS
Champs Spotlight: Wins For Ariya, Lexi; Big Shots From Rory, Phil May 9, 2016 By David Shefter and Scott Lipsky, USGA

After several close calls, Ariya Jutanugarn entered the winner's circle on the LPGA Tour for the first time at the Yokohama LPGA Classic. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

Welcome to the LPGA Tour, where U.S. Girls’ Junior champions thrive.

Ariya Jutanugarn (2011) became the fourth Girls’ Junior champion to post a victory during the 2016 season, holding off 2005 U.S.  Women’s Amateur champion Morgan Pressel, Amy Yang and Stacy Lewis by one stroke in the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala., on Sunday.

Jutanugarn, who defeated Dottie Ardina at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club five years ago, entered the final round with a three-stroke lead. An up-and-down day of four birdies and four bogeys was enough for the 20-year-old from Thailand to collect her first victory on the LPGA Tour. Her final-round 72 gave her a 72-hole total of 14-under 274.

Last week in Irving, Texas, 2006 Girls’ Junior champion Jenny Shin claimed her first LPGA Tour title, in the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout. Lexi Thompson (2008) and Minjee Lee (2012), who beat Jutanugarn in the semifinals en route to her Girls’ Junior title at Lake Merced Golf Club, have also earned victories this season.

In March, Jutanugarn was in position to win the ANA Inspiration, the first women’s professional major championship of the year, only to finish with three consecutive bogeys to place fourth, two strokes behind champion and world No. 1 Lydia Ko, the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion. It was one of three top-10 finishes posted by Jutanugarn this season before her breakthrough win on Sunday.

“So tough,” said Jutanugarn, who became the first player from Thailand to win on the LPGA Tour, of her emotions as she closed out the victory. “My legs were shaking, my hands were shaking.”

Three additional USGA champions joined Jutanugarn in the top 10. Lee and 2001 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion Candie Kung tied for sixth, while 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu tied for 10th.

USGA Champs Dot Leader Board at Quail Hollow

In the end on Sunday, it wasn’t a USGA champion that lifted the trophy at the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., but half of the top-10 finishers have their names inscribed in the Hall of Champions at the USGA Museum.

A par on the first playoff hole gave James Hahn his second Tour victory, topping Roberto Castro. Were it not for a pair of late bogeys, 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose may have joined them for extra golf.

Entering the final round two strokes behind 54-hole leader Rickie Fowler, Rose took the outright lead after a birdie on the par-5 fifth hole and was tied with Hahn and Castro with seven holes to play before carding the first bogey of his round on No. 12. A three-putt bogey from about 18 feet on No. 16 all but ended his chances of claiming his first Tour victory of 2016. Rose ultimately finished alone in third place, one shot out of the playoff.

Among the four players to share fourth place were 2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, who claimed the 1990 U.S. Amateur title. Tough rounds on Saturday took both players out of serious contention heading into the final round, but each fired 66 on Sunday to climb up the leader board. It was a shot on Saturday during McIlroy’s 73, however, that had everyone talking.

Mickelson, meanwhile, used his famed brilliance around the greens to help rebound from his third-round 76, which included a quadruple-bogey 8 on his final hole.

Lucas Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, and Danny Lee, 2008 U.S. Amateur champion, finished eighth and tied for ninth, respectively.

Lexi Tops in Japan

U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Lexi Thompson collected her ninth professional victory on Sunday, claiming the World Ladies Championship Salonpas Cup, a major on the Japan LPGA Tour. Thompson, who was a member of the victorious 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team, fired weekend rounds of 65-72 on the East Course at Ibaraki Golf Club to finish at 13-under 275, two strokes ahead of Ayaka Watanabe, of Japan.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org. Scott Lipsky is the manager of websites and digital platforms for the USGA. Email him at slipsky@usga.org.  

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