Patty Tavatanakit started with a big lead and was exceptional. And Lydia Ko still almost caught her. Almost.
Ko shot the round of the year, but Tavatanakit was still good enough to hang on and win the ANA Inspiration on Sunday at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The 21-year-old closed with a four-under 68 to get to 18 under overall, besting Ko by two, to win not only her first major but LPGA event.
It was between Tavatanakit and Ko down the stretch as they pulled away from the field. Four others tied for third at 11 under.
“I had no idea,” Tavatanakit said about Ko’s surge. “Didn’t look at the leaderboard at all today just because, I saw her name up there but I didn’t look at it. I wanted to play my own game, which I did, and did a really good job of that today.”
Tavatanakit, the first rookie to win the ANA Inspiration since Juli Inkster in 1984, opened the day with a five-stroke lead, but Ko, playing three pairings ahead of Tavatanakit, got hot. She started birdie-eagle en route to a seven-under 29 on the front. She was nine under after 11 holes and made one birdie the rest of the way, signing for a 10-under 62.
Ko’s 62 tied a course record and was one off Hyo Joo Kim’s record of lowest major round ever (61, 2014 Evian Championship).
“I don’t think it was like there was an exact moment where I felt like, OK, this is going to be a good one,” Ko said. “Especially around a course like this, you just have to focus until that last putt drops in the last hole. Early in the week I was talking with [coach] Sean [Foley], and he said make sure that I’m out there hitting with 100 percent conviction. I said, Commitment? And he said, ‘Conviction.’ I think that’s what I’ve tried to focus on.”
Ko’s 62 helped her grab the clubhouse lead, but Tavatanakit refused to make an error. She had an eagle and two birdies on the day and parred the last six. She didn’t make a bogey.
“Overall I feel like I stuck to my game plan and I overcame the adversity out there,” Tavatanakit said.