Top-ranked Yani Tseng earned her third tournament win in three weeks Sunday, shooting a 6-under 66 to pull away for a comfortable five-shot victory over Michelle Wie in the Honda LPGA Thailand. The event served as the season opener on the 2011 LPGA Tour calendar.
Tseng led by one stroke over Wie and In-kyung Kim going into the final round and had the lowest score of the day with seven birdies and one bogey to finish at 15-under 273.
Wie settled for a 70 to finish second, while Kim had a 71 was another stroke back in a tie for third with Karrie Webb, who shot a 69. Paula Creamer was fifth at 8 under after a 71.
Tseng took over the No. 1 ranking after winning back-to-back Ladies European Tour events, the Women’s Australian Open two weeks ago and then the Australian Ladies Masters last weekend.
“I just tried my best and I know I had lots of confidence,” Tseng said about winning three weeks in a row. “But with all the great golfers out here, you never know until the last putt drops in.”
Kim birdied three of her first six holes to sit tied for the lead with Tseng, and was at 13 under after a birdie on the 13th. However, she made a quintuple bogey on the 17th to fall out of contention before finishing with a birdie to secure a tie for third.
Wie also put pressure on Tseng by chipping in for a birdie on the first hole and picking up two more shots on the sixth and seventh. But she didn’t make another birdie the rest of the way and was four shots behind Tseng when she bogeyed the 17th.
“I feel like I played good out there today, but on the back nine I just didn’t make anything,” Wie said. “Yani played fantastic. She played like a rock star out there. She made every single putt and zero mistakes. Congrats to her.”
Tseng will go for a fourth straight victory next week in Singapore.
“I have lots of confidence and I’m looking forward to next week to see if I can win,” she said. “I feel very excited every week. I just focused on this week. I think to myself, ‘Last week has passed, don’t put pressure on this week.’ Next week is a new week and I’ll enjoy it.”
AUSTRALIA'S SMITH WINS IN NEW ZEALAND: Also Sunday, Australia’s Kristie Smith shot a 4-under 68 to overtake Italy’s Giulia Sergas and win the New Zealand Women’s Open.
Smith finished with a 72-hole total of 12-under-par 276 to claim her first title on the Ladies European Tour. Smith, a former Australian amateur champion, turned professional in 2009 and won her first title last year on the Australian LPGA Tour.
“I am over the moon,” she said. “My goal this year was to win on the LET Tour and it’s nice to do it early. I think I will have to reassess my goals. They had been to finish in the top five on the LET money list and play well in the majors.”
Sergas, penalized a stroke after Saturday’s round for slow play, entered the final round with a four-stroke lead, but the Italian had two bogeys and a triple bogey on her first three holes to finish with a 76.
Sergas shared second place with American Tiffany Joh, a graduate student at UCLA who shot a 70 to move up five places in the final round Sunday.
Defending champion Laura Davies briefly led the standings Sunday before dropping back with a triple bogey on the fourth hole. She finished with a 77 and was eight strokes behind the winner.
Sergas entered the final round with a four-stroke lead, but had two bogeys and a triple bogey on her first three holes Sunday and shot a 76.
Sergas and American Tiffany Joh, a UCLA graduate student, tied for second. Joh posted a 2-under 70 in the final round.