Lilia Vu cemented her place on the LPGA Tour with her first victory, a player to watch this season. Siem back in the winner's circle and Alexander continues her dominance in South Africa.
On a windy day at Siam Country Club’s Pattaya Old Course, it was American Lilia Vu who emerged victorious, winning by one shot over 54-hole leader Natthakritta Vongtaveelap. Starting the day at -14 and six back of the lead, Vu raced out of the gate, making two birdies in her first three holes. A string of pars from holes four to seven cooled her off slightly, but then she rattled off an amazing five consecutive birdies from holes eight to 12, in dogged pursuit of rookie Vongtaveelap.
Vu made another birdie on the par-4, 15th to take a one-shot lead with four holes to play, ultimately grinding out four more pars to post an eight-under-par, 64 and become the season’s first Rolex First-Time Winner.
Watch final round highlights from the Honda LPGA Thailand
The victory comes just one week after she came so close at the Aramco Saudi Ladies International, where a bogey on the 72nd hole knocked her into a tie for third, after being in contention on the final day. She obviously didn’t let that affect her this week:
“I tried not to really downplay how well I played last week because of one shot. I felt like I played really well. It was my first tournament of the year, so I thought I did pretty well. I just knew I was good enough, and just go out there and have fun again every single week.
The 25-year-old finished tied third or better on three different occasions last season, so she was pleased to finally seal her first victory:
“Feels really good to get it done. I feel like I put a lot of pressure on myself at the end of last year, and during the off-season I kind of just changed my mindset. Like I always knew I was going to win, I just got to let it happen,” said the UCLA alum. “The more you hold onto something I feel like it gets further away. I came close a lot towards the end of the last season, so I was just going to have fun and play my game and it would eventually work itself out.”
Not to be for Thai rookie Vongtaveelap
Thai rookie Vongtaveelap struggled to stay steady under pressure on day four in Chonburi, Thailand. The 20-year-old birdied the first, seeming to be in total control, but a bogey on the second appeared to rattle her cage. She doubled the par-3, 4th, and after recovering with a birdie on five, made another bogey at the 6th. Vongtaveelap made back-to-back birdies on seven and eight and bogeyed the 9th to turn in 37.
She opened the back nine birdie-bogey-birdie, snagging another birdie on the par-4 14th to tie the lead with Vu with four holes to play, but Vongtaveelap closed with four pars, including one on the par-5 18th that saw her chip her third shot while on the green, ultimately posting at -21 and losing by one shot.
Two-time LPGA Tour winner Atthaya Thitikul couldn’t find the gas on Sunday, finally showing some life on the closing nine, making four birdies and no bogeys to card a four-under-par, 68 and finish third. Despite the lacklustre final day, Thitikul was pleased with her result and was incredibly grateful to play in front of a legion of fans in her home country:
“I had a really good week this week in my hometown. Honda LPGA, it's always special event in my career,” said the 20-year-old. “Had good, positive vibes here for finishing today as well. Not getting there, but all the process has been in the right direction.”
Sweden’s Maja Stark and France’s Celine Boutier concluded their weeks inside the top-five, finishing in a tie for fourth at -17. Next week’s defending champion Jin Young Ko matched Vu’s eight-under-par, 64 to vault from T27 into a share of sixth alongside Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings No. 1 Lydia Ko, major champion Nelly Korda and Ireland’s Leona Maguire. Defending champion Nanna Koerstz Madsen finished T38.
The LPGA tour now moves to Singapore and the HSBC Women's World Championship at Sentosa Golf Club.
Siem's first victory in eight years
It’s been nearly eight and a half years since Marcel Siem won on the DP World Tour. So, to win his fifth title at the Hero Indian Open was extra sweet.
Having come through qualifying school last year to secure his card, the 42-year-old has had to work hard to get back into the winner's circle.
The German started the day with one shot off the lead, with fellow countryman Yannick Paul in front. Paul, who finished second last week, was chasing his second DP World Tour title.
A birdie on the fourth saw Siem join Paul at the top of the leaderboard. By the 12th Siem had established a two-shot lead but a bogey at 13 and a birdie from Paul led to a two-shot swing.
Siem then regained the lead with a birdie on 14 and didn’t look back with Paul unable to find any further birdies on the closing holes.
Paul had to settle for a second week in second place, with Dutchman Joost Luiten placing third, also for a second week in a row.
Siem said of his victory:
"This means a lot because two years ago I wasn't even sure if I could still compete on the DP World Tour and now I'm a winner again, come on!"
Side note - how cool is Siem's shirt?!
The DP World Tour isn't in action this coming week but returns to Kenya for the Magical Kenya Open, the following week.
Chris Kirk returns to the winner's circle, also after eight years
Another player who has waited eight years for a victory is Chris Kirk. He nearly saw his fifth PGA Tour title slip by when a bogey on 18 forced a play-off with American compatriot and playing partner Eric Cole.
The 37-year-old only required one extra hole, where he had a tap in birdie to make an emotional return to the winner’s circle at the Honda Classic on Sunday.
Kirk’s win comes after he took a break from the PGA Tour to treat alcoholism and depression in 2019.
"I just have so much to be thankful for. I'm so grateful for my sobriety. I'm so grateful for my family. I'm so grateful for everyone that supported me throughout the past three or four years, especially.
The PGA Tour continues its Florida swing with the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Plus there is the Puerto Rico Open.
Second Sunshine Ladies Tour victory for Alexander
Report from Sunshine Ladies Tour
Fifth in 2019. Third in 2021. Cas Alexander exacted her revenge on the Glendower Golf Club course on Friday as she carded a six-under-par 66 to scythe through field for a one-stroke victory in the R1-million Jabra Ladies Open.
She lifted her second title of the Sunshine Ladies Tour 2023 season after winning the season-opening SuperSport Ladies Challenge, and the one-shot victory shot the Ekurhuleni native to the summit of the Investec Order of Merit.
Alexander set the early clubhouse target at 14-under-par with her bogey-free round, then waited to see how things would unfold.
Mireia Prat from Spain, who led the first two rounds, was tied for the lead, but handed the victory to Alexander with a finishing bogey. South Africa’s Kaleigh Telfer continued a strong run in her rookie season on the local circuit, backing up a top five in the Dimension Data Ladies Challenge with a superb third place finish in her Jabra Ladies Classic debut.
Alexander, ironically, thought her first hole of the day was her best hole and set her up for her fourth Sunshine Ladies Tour triumph.
“The highlight was the first hole, because I hit it in the front bunker, the same place as in the second round where I made double, but this time, I hit a really good bunker shot, made the putt for par and I felt it was a sign to get going,” Alexander said. “That got my confidence up after an under-pressure first hole, because it got me straight into the focus mode.”
“I knew a low round could do it. I was hoping for an eight-under – I actually used a Titleist 8 ball because of that. I just thought to myself I was going to keep it really tidy. I knew I was three shots behind but if I could get to three-under as quickly as possible, then I would feel I was level with the lead and I could get going from there. Today’s 66 was really good – it felt like an eight-under. With no drops, you feel like the birdies really count.”
The 2021 Joburg Ladies Open champion made the three birdies she needed by the time she reached the sixth. With Prat only one-under at that point, it was game on.
The Spaniard didn’t pick up another shot until the 12th, while Alexander had made two more at that stage to draw level. The birdie Alexander made on 13 saw her hit the front. “I didn’t hit that fairway the whole week as I missed it right,” she said. “Today I hit the fairway and I pumped one up there 290, and I had an eight-iron in, two puts for a tap-in birdie.”
Alexander held her nerve down the stretch and, although Prat levelled things up with a birdie of her own on the 15th, she dropped again on the final hole. “It was good to keep it steady on 17 and 18, as they make for a tough finish,” said Alexander.
Telfer finished her tournament with a five-under-par 67, and that lifted her two shots clear of Denmark’s Smilla Tarning Soenderby, who was on 10-under-par. Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am winner Moa Folke of Sweden’s good run also continues – she finished in fifth on nine-under-par after she closed with a level-par 72.
For Alexander, the win settled the beef she felt she had with Glendower after her opening 66. “It wasn’t a particularly good 66 on the first day,” she said. “The course was there for the taking, and I felt it was very average.
“From the beginning this morning, I felt if I could get a low one in, I could maybe stand a chance. Things went my way, and a couple of putts dropped.”
With the final two events of the 2023 season, the Joburg Ladies Open and the Investec South African Women’s Open, ahead of her, Alexander is sitting pretty with great form on her side.
This week it's the co-sanctioned Joburg Ladies Open which sees the Ladies European Tour return to South Africa.
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