Ariya, Rory return to winner's circle

Ariya, Rory return to winner's circle

Duo among champs in year of comebacks

LOS ANGELES: Former world No.1 Ariya Jutanagarn shot an incredible closing 63 to win the Honda LPGA Thailand beating her Thai compatriot Atthaya Thitikul by one stroke on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn lifts the Honda LPGA Thailand trophy at Siam Country Club in Chon Buri on Sunday.

In the process, she ended a 1,015-day wait for her 11th LPGA Tour title and became the first home winner in the tournament's 15-year history.

Her last win before Sunday had been the 2018 Ladies Scottish Open and she revealed just how close she had come to walking away from the game during the dark days in between.

"I had really tough time last two years. I don't know how many times I told my psych coach: 'You know what, I want to rest, I want to stop'," said Ariya following her triumph at Siam Country Club in Chon Buri.

But she kept going and credited her team for keeping her going.

"I would say without them I am not who I am. How many times I just wanted to stop," said the 25-year-old.

Her world ranking dropped to No.33 before the LPGA Thailand but moved up 12 places to No.21 after Sunday's win.

ANA Inspiration champion Patty Tavatanakit is Thailand's highest-ranked player at No.11 after finishing tied third on home soil, behind runner-up and compatriot Atthaya.

Half a world away another former world No.1, Rory McIlroy, celebrated his first win in 553 days and a return to the top 10 on Sunday at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Not only have McIlroy and Ariya returned to the winner's circle this year, but a whole string of players have made it back to the top rung of the leaderboard as 2021 shapes up to be the year of the comeback.

Jordan Spieth hadn't won since the 2017 Open Championship at Birkdale when he won the Texas Open last month.

The following week, Hideki Matsuyama, who also hadn't won for four years, triumphed at Augusta to become the first male Japanese major winner.

In the women's game, Lydia Ko broke a 1,084-day drought at the Lotte Championship, Brooke Henderson won the LA Open for her first triumph since 2019 and Kim Hyo-Joo ended the longest run of all when she won the HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore, which took place one week before the Thailand event, for her first LPGA win since 2016.

Who's next? One popular choice will be the colourful Rickie Fowler, who has plunged to 122nd in the world since his last win, which came at the Phoenix Open in February 2019.

The former world No.4's latest attempt to turn his form around comes at this week's Byron Nelson Championship in Texas.

Meanwhile, world No.1 Dustin Johnson has withdrawn from this week's Byron Nelson event after suffering a flare-up of a lingering knee problem, a statement said on Monday.

Johnson, who underwent surgery on his left knee in September 2019, said in a statement released through the PGA Tour he would skip this week's event in Texas to focus on rehabilitation.

The announcement comes just over a week before the second major of the season, the May 20-23 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in South Carolina. afp/bangkok post

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