Hero Women’s Indian Open: Pornanong’s Early Birthday Treat

Gurgaon, India (December 2): Thai Pornanong Phatlum gave herself an early 23rd birthday present by becoming the first woman to win the Hero Women’s Indian Open three times.

Pornanong, who turns 23 on December 4, gave a dominant final round display at DLF Golf and Country Club. She shot rounds of 72, 65 and 66 for a total of 203, 13-under-par, winning by four strokes from defending champion Caroline Hedwall.

“I’m so happy now. It’s like a big tournament. I won and in two days it will be my birthday so it’s going to be a big present for me,” said Pornanong, who won the event on the same golf course in 2008 and 2009, when it was sanctioned by the Ladies Asian Golf Tour and Women’s Golf Association of India, before it became tri-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour (LET).

“I love winning at this golf course and I like to play here very much,” continued the diminutive world number 93, who stands five-foot three-inches tall. “I think my approach shots and putting were the best part of my game. I have a lot of pressure today but I told myself to relax.”

The colourfully dressed Pornanong may be softly spoken and shy when speaking English, but she let her golf do the talking on a warm and sunny final day near New Delhi.

Having started the final round tied for the lead with Australian Bree Arthur on seven-under, she took control of the championship with an outward nine of five-under 31 in the final round, to gain a three-stroke lead over Hedwall, to whom she had finished second 12 months earlier.

It turned out to be an exciting final round duel and both players birdied the first hole. Hedwall then caught Pornanong with a birdie on the fifth. At the par-five sixth, Pornanong made a 15-footer for eagle while Hedwall could only respond with a birdie after finding the bunker right, short of the green. Pornanong then sank birdie putts from three and 12 feet at the seventh and eighth respectively to move three shots clear of the field by the turn.

There was a two-shot swing at the 15th, which Pornanong bogeyed and Hedwall birdied, reducing the margin to just one stroke. However, after hitting her bright pink ball into the rough left of the fairway on 17, Pornanong expertly played a half shot out of the trees using a nine-iron to within three feet of the hole and rolled in the putt to move two strokes ahead.

Both players split the fairway with their drives on the par-five 18th, but it was effectively all over when Hedwall hit her second shot into the lake short of the green. “The funny thing is that I should reach. I had 156 metres to the pin but it was in a divot and I can’t really do much about that,” Hedwall, 23, explained. “The divot was placed there but it still wasn’t a good lie. I said to my mom: ‘I have adrenaline so this is the club that I have to hit. If I hit 4-iron I might end up in the bunker’. So I just had to go with it and I did and I hit a good shot, but I obviously lost a lot of length hitting from there. It went in the water and that happens.

“I didn’t really put myself in any trouble, I just didn’t make the putts that I needed to make and Pornanong played really well and put pressure on me, so it was a good game, just sometimes you don’t win.”

Hedwall took a bogey to complete a final round of 69 and end at nine-under, following her course record 62 second-round. Pornanong made a birdie after playing an excellent third shot from the bunker to within four feet of the flag. “I didn’t want to think about it before I got the win so I just tried my best and relaxed,” said Pornanong, explaining that her brother, Pornpong, who is also a professional golfer, helped her psychologically in his role as caddie.

It was Pornanong’s sixth international title. She won the 2006 Hong Kong Open on the LAGT as a 17-year-old amateur, before collecting wins in India and Thailand in 2008. Her win in India in 2009 was her fourth LAGT title and she followed up by collecting the 2012 Brazil Cup in May, which was an unofficial tournament on the US LPGA, played over two rounds.

Another Thai, Nontaya Srisawang, finished third on seven-under after a final round 68 and said that she was delighted for her friend’s victory. Nontaya, who suffered a bout of Dengue Fever last month, said: “I had 14 greens today and 29 putts so I just gave myself chances to make putts. I’m very happy, after I was sick, four weeks ago. I came back and to get a top five, I’m very happy with that.”

The LET now heads to Emirates Golf Club for the season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, taking place from December 5-8.

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