Yani Tseng watched Ai Miyazato’s approach on the 18th hole of the Honda LPGA Thailand and knew she had to come up with an equally impressive shot to avoid a possible playoff.
Tseng met the challenge with a shot fitting her No. 1 ranking, controlling the spin perfectly to set up a tap-in putt.
“It was an incredible shot. I think it’s the shot of the week,” Tseng said Sunday. “Especially, I saw that Ai hit it so close and I knew she was going to make that putt. So, I tell myself, `I need to get this close.”’
The 23-year-old Taiwanese star successfully defended her title for her 13th LPGA Tour victory, matching Miyazato with birdies on the final two holes to hold off her Japanese friend by a stroke.
“It was tough,” Tseng said about her approach on the par-5 18th. “I had 104 to the pin and a little uphill. I know my ball is going to spin a lot, so I just tried to keep it low and not spin too much. … I was very proud of myself for hitting that shot into 18 and making birdie to win.”
Tseng closed with a 6-under 66 to finish at 19-under 269 on the Old Course at Siam Country Club. She opened with a 73 so disappointing that she cried in her hotel rom afterward, then shot consecutive 65s to enter the final round a shot behind Miyazato.
“I had some luck out there,” Tseng said, pointing to the lucky Thai statue where she made a wish. “I shot 1 over the first round, but I came back very soon and played 20 under the next three days. I felt like I could improve a lot and I feel like something gave me luck.”
She also visited the statue last year.
“I just wish I could win this tournament,” she said.
Last year, Tseng won the event for the first of her seven 2011 LPGA Tour victories, including major victories in the LPGA Championship and Women’s British Open. The five-time major champion finished the year with 12 worldwide victories. She has 33 career worldwide professional victories.
“I feel much more pressure coming into this year,” Tseng said. “Last year, when I started, I was nothing. I was just in the top five in the world, but I don’t have 12 wins or world No. 1 title. After last year, I have world No. 1 and I had 12 wins and that pressure keep going on and on.”
Miyazato finished with a 67.
“Of course, Yani is No. 1, so I knew it wouldn’t be easy today,” Miyazato said. “I kind of expected her to play that way.”
South Korea’s Jiyai Shin, tied for the lead with Tseng after a birdie of her own on the par-4 17th, had a 67 to finish two strokes back.
Tseng eagled the par-5 opening hole and Miyazato had a birdie, leaving them tied at 15 under. Tseng took the lead with a birdie on the par-4 third, and added birdies on the par-4 sixth and par-5 seventh. At the turn, she had a three-stroke lead over Shin and four-shot advantage over Miyazato.
“I played really well on the front nine, but it was tough on the back nine, especially when you see Jiyai and Ai keep making birdies,” Tseng said. “It got tight down the stretch. It was tough. I feel like I had lots of emotions today.”
Shin, playing a group ahead of Tseng and Miyazato, birdied the par-4 10th to pull within two and gained another stroke when Tseng bogeyed the hole. Tseng pushed her lead to two with a birdie on the par-3 12th, but bogeyed the par-4 13th.
Miyazato birdied the 10th and pulled within one of Tseng with a birdie on the par-4 15th, then matched Tseng with a par on 16 and the birdies on 17 and 18.
“Overall, I played really well and I’m very happy that I could finish strong today,” Miyazato said. “I really enjoyed playing with Yani, but next time I want to win.”
South Korea’s Amy Yang shot a 69 to finish fourth at 14 under.
Sixteen-year-old Thai amateur Ariya Jutanugarn followed her third-round 65 with a 74 to tie for 12th to 7 under. She played the final five holes in 4 over, making a double bogey-7 on No. 18. Last year, Jutanugarn won the U.S. Junior Girls’ Championship and was the Rolex Junior Player of the Year.
American Lexi Thompson had five back-nine birdies in a 66 to tie for 14th at 6 under. “I’m really happy with the way I’m hitting it,” Thompson said.
Second-ranked Suzann Pettersen had a 78 to drop into a tie for 21st at 4 under. She began the round four strokes out of the lead, while Michelle Wie shot a 73 to tie for 38th at 1 over. Morgan Pressel had a hole-in-one with an 8-iron on the 136-yard eighth hole. She finished with a 71 to tie for 49th at 4 over.
Also Sunday in Christchurch, New Zealand, Australia’s Lindsey Wright made a 13-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th for a 4-under 68 and a one-stroke victory Sunday in the New Zealand Women’s Open.
Wright finished at 10-under 206 at Pegasus Golf Club in the event sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and Australian Ladies Professional Golf.
“It’s unbelievable,” Wright said. “It’s still sinking in. I putted really well all day and the last six holes I was really nervous.”
The 32-year-old former Pepperdine player is a regular on the LPGA Tour.
American Alison Walshe and Australia’s Jessica Speechley tied for second. Walshe closed with a 69, and Speechley had a 65.
“I looked at the leaderboard and saw Alison Walshe up there and Speechley at 9 under and thought, `No, I can make this putt. Just keep your head down, just hit a great putt,”’ Wright said.
Canada’s Lorie Kane and Australia’s Stephanie Na shot 69 to tie for fourth at 8 under.
Fourteen-year-old Lydia Ko, part of a six-way tie for the second-round lead, shot a 74 to tie for 17th at 4 under. The South Korean-born New Zealander, the world’s top-ranked amateur, became the youngest winner of a professional tour event last month in the Women’s New South Wales Open.