June 11 (Reuters) - Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand sank a monster birdie putt to win a playoff at the Manulife LPGA Classic on Sunday and almost certainly assume the world number one ranking.
Ariya put her right hand to her mouth in disbelief and then burst into tears after holing a 30-footer at the first extra hole to outlast American Lexi Thompson and South Korean Chun In-gee in Cambridge, Ontario.
Ariya’s joy stood in stark contrast to the disappointment felt by Thompson, who frittered away a two-shot lead in regulation by three-putting the final two holes for two bogeys.
“I just can’t believe I’ve won the tournament because when I got here I didn’t feel comfortable hitting the golf ball,” an emotional Ariya told Golf Channel.
“I was scared to hit my tee shot. (Now) I feel better.”
Ariya carded a closing three-under-par 69 in breezy conditions at Whistle Bear, while Thompson shot 72 and Chun 70. They all finished at 17-under 271.
Ariya is almost certain to take over from Lydia Ko as the world number one when the rankings are updated on Monday.
Ariya was set to take over last Monday, but ended up staying at number two after the ranking projections were bungled.
The 21-year-old from Bangkok has now had six LPGA victories, all since the start of last season.
Ariya would not have had a chance to win on Sunday if Thompson had not suffered a meltdown, her jangled nerves betraying her when under pressure with the putter.
Thompson lipped out a five-foot putt at the penultimate hole and had a chance to make amends with a four-footer to win it at the last but hit a poor putt to fall back into the playoff. (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)