ANA Inspiration 2021: Patty Tavatanakit Wins Despite Lydia Ko's 4th-Round SurgeApril 5, 2021
It was Patty Tavatanakit against the field at the 2021 ANA Inspiration at Rancho Mirage, California.
Until Lydia Ko turned in an absolute masterpiece Sunday.
After all, Tavatanakit, who counts seven wins from her career at UCLA and three victories on the Symetra Tour in 2019 on her resume, entered Sunday's final round with a commanding five-stroke lead at 14 under.
The LPGA Tour rookie tied the 54-hole record Pernilla Lindberg set in 2018 and had an opportunity to beat Dottie Pepper's all-time record of 19 under from 1999, per the Associated Press (h/t Los Angeles Times).
That figured to be the only real drama, but Ko came charging up the leaderboard with a sparkling 10-under 62 and nearly stole the tournament away with an all-time performance.
Ultimately, though, the long-hitting Tavatanakit cleared a full leaderboard that is available on LPGA.com by two strokes.
1. Patty Tavatanakit, -18
2. Lydia Ko, -16
T3. Sei Young Kim, -11
T3. Nelly Korda, -11
T3. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, -11
T3. Shanshan Feng, -11
T7. Jin Young Ko, -10
T7. Inbee Park, -10
T7. Ally Ewing, -10
Tavatanakit earned $465,000, and Ko $287,716, per Golf Digest.
While Tavatanakit won the tournament, it was Ko and Sei Young Kim who turned heads in the early going.
Ko started the round well out of contention at six under and eight strokes behind the eventual champion, but she opened her round with a birdie and an eagle. That was just the beginning of her red-hot start, as she notched four more birdies during a seven-under front nine to suddenly propel herself into contention.
Kim didn't match Ko's incredible showing, but she too climbed into relative contention despite starting well behind at five under. She didn't post an eagle on the front nine but tallied five birdies and four pars to climb to under 10.
However, she came back to earth on the back nine and finished 11 under for the tournament.
It was a testament to how much ground the field had to make up on Tavatanakit that she was still in control despite those initial efforts from the challengers.
The victor had the breathing room to play safe and steady golf instead of attempting risky shots in an effort to make up ground. A string of pars with the occasional birdie or better figured to be enough, and that is exactly how she played the front nine with seven pars.
She also made life even more difficult for her challengers with a chip-in eagle on the second hole.
Despite the solid play, Tavatanakit found herself under more pressure than she likely expected when Ko carried her momentum from the front nine into the back nine with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 to pull within two strokes.
Tavatanakit responded with a birdie on No. 12 to create some breathing room again, which was all the more important when Ko notched another birdie on the 15th.
That birdie was Ko's last, which created a situation where all Tavatanakit had to do was close with a handful of pars to clinch the tournament. She drilled a long, pressure-packed putt to save par on the 15th before closing with three more pars to remove any drama.