Nineteen-year-old Atthaya Thitikul defeats Danielle Kang in a play-off at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G
It was a thrilling finish to Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, as Danielle Kang pitched in for eagle on the final hole to set the clubhouse lead at -17. Meanwhile LPGA Tour rookie Atthaya Thitikul holed a lengthy birdie putt on the par-3 17th to join Kang at -17. The chance of a birdie on 18 slipped by and it became rookie vs. veteran in the play-off.
The pair matched pars on the 15th, a short par-3 that was extra tricky as the afternoon winds picked up. Both found the fairway off the tee 16 and both had looks for birdie – Kang just off the back in the fringe and Atthaya from about fifteen feet. Kang’s putt raced by, leaving the six-time LPGA Tour winner with a putt for par, giving the advantage to Thitikul. With the poise of a player well beyond her years, the 19-year-old's birdie attempt was holed with ease to secure her second win of the season.
One of only four players with multiple wins this season
Thitikul became a Rolex First-Time Winner earlier this season at the JTBC Classic presented by Barbasol, and with today’s victory, she becomes the fourth player from Thailand to have multiple wins on the LPGA Tour plus the fourth player with multiple wins this season alongside Jennifer Kupcho (3), Minjee Lee (2) and Brooke Henderson (2).
Although she already has two Tour titles under her belt, Thitikul has no plans to step off the gas pedal with just a few events left this season and felt like she really proved herself on Sunday in Northwest Arkansas.
“I have to say that I really want to win. When I go out and play every event, I think every player wants to win the tournaments.
"It means a lot to me as well to get my second win, because it seems like you prove that you can do it, even you're not like three or four groups before the final group. But I'm in the final group, and then just prove myself that, yeah, you can do it. Even if you have pressure on yourself, and it means a lot to me and to my team as well, because they know that I can do it, like many times. But, here it's second win. It's really special for me.”
Danielle Kang trending in the right direction after back surgery
Although she wasn’t the one hoisting the trophy at the end of the day, Kang was still incredibly proud of her effort on Sunday and took a lot of pride in what she was able to accomplish this week in Arkansas.
She was bogey-free for 54 holes and the solo second is her best result since the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio. It was also her best finish since her return to competitive golf in August after undergoing treatment for a tumor on her spine.
It’s been a tough road for the 29-year-old this season and Sunday’s finish is a sign that her game is trending in the right direction, especially important as she looks ahead to the last few events of 2022.
“I kept telling my caddie that I just wanted to finish at 17 under. On the last hole, I miss-hit the 5-wood a little bit and we didn't want to be long. As we walked up I said, ‘I really want to make an eagle. I'll chip that in.’ He was like, ‘You can chip that in easy.’ We chipped it in!”
“This place is really special for me. It's the first time as a pro I ever played. I have a family here for 13 years. This is the last domestic tournament that my dad ever watched. There is a lot riding on this event, but with that going on, the way my team had built me into coming here is where I get emotional and so thankful.”
Korean Chella Choi backed up her second-round, eight-under-par 63 with a six-under-par, 65 that was good enough to finish solo third at -16, her best result of the 2022 season. Thai veteran Pornanong Phatlum, who gave it everything she had with a six-under-par 65, came in fourth, just two shots back of Choi. She collected her first top 10 of the year and first top five since the 2018 AIG Women’s Open.
Seven players round out the top 10 in a tie for fifth at -13, including 2016 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship winner Lydia Ko, Lizette Salas and Celine Boutier.
The Tour moves to Texas and The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America at Old American Golf Club.