Apr 5th, 2021
Tavatanakit wins ANA Inspiration
Rookie holds off a charging Lydia Ko for dream win
Photography: Getty Images
She became just the second player to win a major championship in her rookie season, joining Juli Inkster in 1984.
“It's amazing I'm still calm, there is some calmness in me. I don't know why. But like I said, I just wanted it to be done since this morning; didn't get a lot of sleep last night. But I meditated twice this morning. Just be patient. I knew it was going to be hard out here and I got to be really strong mentally,” said Tavatanakit, who became the season’s first Rolex First-Time Winner.
“So it feels great to be a major champion. It still hasn't really sunk in yet the fact that I'm like, I just turned 21 six months ago and now I'm a major champion in my rookie year. Just crazy.”
Tavatanakit got off to a great start with an eagle on the 2nd hole, chipping in from off the green. A birdie on the 8th had her making the turn at seventeen-under, and a bogey-free back nine holes, with a sole birdie on the 12th, was enough for a two-stroke victory.
The three-time Symetra Tour winner became the 19th player to earn her first major title at the ANA Inspiration, a moment not lost by the young Thai native as she completed her round on the island green.
“I was happy and excited and I got a little emotional, but I just kept telling myself, It's not over yet. You still have to try your best to make the putt or to two-putt that,” said Tavatanakit, who was greeted by her fellow Thai players, spraying her with champagne.
“I think Ryan, my caddie, saw me get a little bit emotional and he said, Come on. Let's focus on the last one, which I did. I feel like I just pulled myself out of the emotional state and back to where I needed to be.”
Three groupings ahead, the 2016 ANA Inspiration champion Lydia Ko was firing on all cylinders with a nothing-to-lose attitude. Starting the day eight strokes back, Ko carded an eagle and five birdies to break the nine-hole ANA scoring record with a 29 and was inching closer to Tavatanakit’s lead.
The 29 also tied the lowest nine-hole score of any major championship, last recorded by Sei Young Kim in the second round of her win at the 2020 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Ko ended the day posting a 62 to finish at sixteen-under, tying Lorena Ochoa in 2006 for the lowest 18-hole score at the ANA.
“To me going into today I didn't want to play conservatively. I just wanted to go out there and play as aggressively but as smart as I can, and I think to some point when you're so far behind, all you know is that you need to make as many birdies as you can. It was not a bad position to be in,” said Ko.
“Sean [Foley] gave me a little pep talk on his way to the Masters while I was warming up today, and yeah, this place has so many great memories, me jumping into Poppie’s Pond with my family and team and having my second major championship win here, and even though we don't technically have friends here, the members were out watching us, and they've always supported me and all of us and they love seeing the LPGA here.”
Four players finished in a tie for third at eleven-under: Sei Young Kim, Nelly Korda, Nanna Koerstz Maden and Shanshan Feng. Kim, Korda and Koerstz Madsen all posted 6-under 66s, with Feng pulling together a bogey-free 69.
“Feeling very good. I mean, I still missed like some of the putts, but I was watching the groups in front and behind and looks like the greens are just kind of tough,” said Feng, who was competing in her first event since December 2019.
“I mean, so finally I actually got a couple birdies out from the rough, from the fairway, so I was very happy about that.”
2019 ANA Inspiration champion Jin Young Ko finished in a tie for seventh with 2013 champion Inbee Park and LPGA Tour winner Ally Ewing at ten-under, with Megan Khang, Moriya Jutanugarn and defending champion Mirim Lee ending in a tie for 10th on nine-under.
Charlie Hull of England had a disappointing level par round of 72 that saw her drop down into a tie for fourteenth alongside her countrywoman Mel Reid who closed with an impressive 67.
Georgia Hall finished in a tie for thirty-sixth on three-under after her 69 and Bronte Hall was three shots further back on level par for the tournament.