Atthaya rises to 5th in world golf rankings
Teenager gunning for major crown this week
published : 30 Mar 2022 at 05:30
newspaper section: Sports
Thai teenage prodigy Atthaya Thitikul has moved up to fifth in the world rankings after claiming her breakthrough win on the LPGA Tour at the JTBC Classic on Sunday.
The 19-year-old defeated Denmark's Nanna Koerstz Madsen on the second play-off hole in Carlsbad, California.
The Ratchaburi native fired an eight-under-par 64 in the final round to catch the Dane and force the play-off. It was the lowest round at Aviara Golf Club all week.
The tour rookie started the tournament as No.14 in the world and climbed up nine spots to No.5 in this week's world rankings.
Atthaya, who is nicknamed "Jeen," is now the highest-ranked Thai golfer, ahead of Patty Tavatanakit, who dropped one place to No.14.
The top-four players remain unchanged -- No.1 Ko Jin-Young of South Korea, No.2 Nelly Korda from the US, No.3 Lydia Ko from New Zealand and No.4 Minjee Lee of Australia.
The other players in the top 10 are South Korea's Park In-Bee, American Danielle Kang, Kim Sei-Young of South Korea, Japan's Nasa Hataoka and Brooke Henderson from Canada.
The other Thais in the top 50 are No.33 Ariya Jutanugarn and No.40 Moriya Jutanugarn.
Atthaya is seen as one of the favourites to win this week's Chevron Championship, the year's first major in women's golf.
Patty will defend the title she won last year when the tournament was known as the ANA Inspiration.
The duo will compete at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, along with six compatriots including Ariya, Moriya and Pajaree Anannarukarn.
Meanwhile, Atthaya came close to winning her maiden LPGA title at the 2021 Honda LPGA Thailand.
She ran out of steam in the final stretch and lost to Ariya by one shot.
Had the teen won, she would have earned membership on the LPGA Tour and fulfilled a lifelong dream.
But after hoisting the trophy on Sunday at the JTBC Classic, the young Thai saw the natural order of things.
That victory in Thailand just wasn't meant to be. Instead, she spent a year earning her stripes with multiple victories on the Ladies European Tour (LET) and, one year later, earned membership on the LPGA Tour through Q-Series.
"I kind of look back and think about it like this: If I won it, I couldn't be on the LET to get all the experience with all the challenging weather, challenging golf courses on the European tour, and I couldn't have the experience to be here [competing] against all the best players in the world if I won at that point," Atthaya told www.lpga.com.
Atthaya, also known as "Jeeno," won two LET tournaments last year and claimed the Race to Costa del Sol and rookie of the year awards.
But it wasn't the first time the teen star had won a professional golf tournament.
In fact, she's been beating pros since she was a 14-year-old amateur.
In 2017, Atthaya became the youngest person, male or female, to win a professional golf tournament when she captured the Ladies European Thailand Championship. bangkok post/lpga.com.
- Atthaya Thitikul