MILTON KEYNES, England (AP) — Ariya Jutanugarn was flirting with another Sunday meltdown, her six-stroke lead down to one after a double bogey on the par-4 13th at tree-lined Woburn.
Her late collapse in the ANA Inspiration nearly as recent as her three straight LPGA Tour victories, the 20-year-old Thai player held on to win the Women’s British Open for her first major title.
“I think everything in the past is good for me, because I learned a lot from that,” Jutanugarn said. “I know how to come back. I know how to be like patient. Feels like everybody going to have like bad times in their life and I think I have that already.”
Jutanugarn played the final five holes in 1 under for an even-par 72 and a three-stroke victory over American Mo Martin and South Korea’s Mirim Lee. The winner finished at 16-under 272 on the Marquess Course, the hilly, forest layout that is a big change from the usual seaside layouts in the tournament rotation.
The long-hitter left driver out of the bag and hammered 3-wood and 2-iron off the tee.
“It’s in my locker. Hope nobody steal it,” she said.
In April at the ANA in the California desert, Jutanugarn — at the time, best known for blowing a two-stroke lead with a closing triple bogey at age 17 in the 2013 LPGA Thailand — bogeyed the final three holes to hand the major title to Lydia Ko.
“After ANA, I’m still really nervous,” Jutanugarn said. “But I’m pretty sure I learned a lot from that, also, because like after I feel nervous, I know what I have to do. Like last few holes, I tried to be patient and to commit to my shots.”
Jutanugarn rebounded in a breakthrough May, running off the three straight victories to become the LPGA Tour’s first Thai champion. Now, she’s the first Thai major champion.
“I think it’s really important for me and for Thai golf, also,” Jutanugarn said. “After my first tournament on tour, my goal is I really want to win a major. I did, so I’m very proud of myself.”
Jutanugarn had a six-stroke lead over Lee at the turn, but Lee picked up five strokes on the next four holes with three straight birdies and Jutanugarn’s double bogey on the 13.
“I think I got mad after that hole,” Jutanugarn said. “I’m like, ‘Oh, what’s wrong with me.’ But after that, I’m really like be patient and I can come back really good.”
Jutanugarn made a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th to take a two-shot advantage to the final hole. Jutanugarn closed with a par, and Lee made a bogey for a 73.
Lee matched the tournament record Thursday with an opening 62 and also led after the second round.
“I really had fun,” Lee said. “That was the most important thing. I had fun throughout the whole thing.”
Martin, the 2014 winner at Royal Birkdale, shot a 70.
“That was my heart and my soul out there,” Martin said. “That’s all I had. I gave it everything I could.”
After opening with rounds of 65 and 69, Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 66 on Saturday to pull two strokes ahead of Lee and break the tournament 54-hole record of 201.
Jutanugarn is projected to jump from sixth to third in the world ranking Monday. A year ago, she was 52nd.
She will return to Thailand for rest and practice before the Rio Olympics.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Jutanugarn said. “I can’t wait. I’m really excited about that.”
DIVOTS: Jutanugarn’s older sister, Moriya, had a 75 to tie for 43rd at 3 over. … The top-ranked Ko tied for 40th at 1 under after a 74. … Stacy Lewis was fourth at 11 under after her third straight 70. The American won in 2013 at St. Andrews. She’s winless in 57 starts since June 2014.