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Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum presented herself an early birthday present when she won the Hero Women's Indian Open a record third time at the DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon on Sunday.
Phatlum, who celebrates her 23rd birthday on Tuesday was most authoritative in her win carding a final round of six-under 66 to set a new tournament record of 13-under 203, beating by one, the total achieved by Caroline Hedwall in 2011. Hedwall, who set a new course record on Saturday, was a distant second following a final round of 69, that gave her a total of nine-under 207, four behind the winner.
India's 14-year-old amateur Aditi Ashok, was the best from the host country in a share of eighth place with rounds of 69, 74 and 72. "This was an amazing experience, something that I will cherish. Playing with top stars from Europe and Asia and finishing in top-10 was almost like a dream," said Aditi, who plays the All India juniors next week and then defends her All India Ladies title in Kolkata the following week.
The top Indian pro was Nalini Singh Siwach (73-74-74) in tied 33rd place, the same as where she started the final round. "I could have done better, but this will give me some confidence as I leave for Morocco to play in the Ladies European tour Q-School.
Phatlum who began the week with a modest 72 shot 65-66 over the weekend while Hedwall made up for her first round 76 with rounds of 62 and 69 in the final two rounds.
"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 Phatlum, who previously 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. With the tournament now also co-sanctioned by the LET, this is also her first title on the Ladies European Tour.
"I love winning at this golf course and I like to play here very much," continued the diminutive world No.93, who stands just 5'3" tall but packs a lot of power. 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 soft-spoken but colourfully-dressed Phatlum speaking in halting English is quite easily the most popular player at the DLF, where in six appearances she has won the title three times, finishing second once and sixth on another occasion in her last five starts. In the first appearance as a 17-year-old she was tied 30th.
Starting the day in a share of the lead with Australian Bree Arthur at seven-under par, Phatlum took charge with an outward nine of five-under 31. Though the final margin was four shots, the contest for the most part of the afternoon was close.
It was an exciting final round duel as both Phatlum and Hedwall playing alongside each other, birdied the first hole. Hedwall then caught Phatlum with a birdie on the fifth. Then on the par-five sixth, Phatlum made a 15-footer for eagle while Hedwall could only respond with a birdie after finding the right bunker short of the green.
Phatlum 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 Phatlum bogeyed and Hedwall birdied, reducing the margin to just one stroke. Phatlum looked to be in trouble when she hit her bright pink ball into the rough left of the fairway on the 17th, but she expertly played a half shot out of the trees using a 9-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."
"I didn't want to think about it before I got the win so I just tried my best and relaxed," said Phatlum, explaining that her brother, Pornpont, who is also a professional golfer, helped her psychologically in his role as caddie.
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.
Srisawang, 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."
Three players finished four shots back in a share of fourth place on three under: England's Trish Johnson (69), Spain's Carlota Ciganda (70) and Italian Stefania Croce (71). England's Laura Davies, the 2010 champion, ended a stroke further back in seventh. Second-round co-leader Bree Arthur from Australia struggled on the greens and recorded a final round 80 to finish in a tie for 13th on one over.
The Tour now heads to the Emirates Golf Club for the season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, taking place from December 5th to 8th.
203 - Pornanong Phatlum (THA) 72 65 66
207 - Caroline Hedwall (SWE) 76 62 69
209 - Nontaya Srisawang (THA) 71 70 68
213 - Trish Johnson (ENG) 72 72 69, Stefania Croce (ITA) 69 73 71, Carlota Ciganda (ESP) 75 68 70
214 - Laura Davies (ENG) 71 69 74
215 - Caroline Afonso (FRA) 72 75 68, Elizabeth Bennett (ENG) 72 69 74, Aditi Ashok (IND) 69 74 72
216 - Veronica Zorzi (ITA) 74 70 72, Joanna Klatten (FRA) 76 70 70
217 - Margherita Rigon (ITA) 73 72 72, Thidapa Suwannapura (THA) 72 72 73, Bree Arthur (AUS) 70 67 80, Gwladys Nocera (FRA) 72 72 73, Jaruporn Palakawong Na Ayutthaya (THA) 70 75 72
218 - Stacey Keating (AUS) 70 75 73, Celine Palomar (FRA) 71 74 73, Beth Allen (USA) 75 71 72, Nikki Garrett (AUS) 73 73 72
219 - Sahra Hassan (WAL) 74 72 73, Numa Gulyanamitta (THA) 74 71 74, Becky Morgan (WAL) 70 73 76, Tania Elosegui (ESP) 71 74 74, Florentyna Parker (ENG) 70 71 78, Becky Brewerton (WAL) 69 76 74, Stacy Lee Bregman (ZAF) 71 77 71, Carly Booth (SCO) 76 72 71
220 - Hae Ra Park (KOR) 74 71 75, Danielle Montgomery (ENG) 76 74 70, Walailak Satarak (USA) 71 74 75
221 - Nalini Singh Siwach (IND) 73 74 74, Linda Wessberg (SWE) 78 69 74, Kiran Matharu (ENG) 73 69 79
222 - Klara Spilkova (CZE) 78 73 71, Connie Chen (ZAF) 72 78 72, Rebecca Artis (AUS) 75 72 75
223 - Pernilla Lindberg (SWE) 77 73 73, Holly Aitchison (ENG) 72 74 77, Cassandra Kirkland (FRA) 77 74 72, Tandi Cuningham (ZAF) 76 70 77
224 - Sophie Sandolo (ITA) 74 74 76, Lorie Kane (CAN) 78 73 73
225 - Sharmila Nicollet (IND) 73 76 76, Charlotte Ellis (ENG) 76 75 74, Kylie Walker (SCO) 75 72 78, Tiranan Yoopan (THA) 77 73 75, Gurbani Singh (IND) 76 73 76, Vani Kapoor (IND) 75 75 75
226 - Ainil Johani Abu Bakar (MYS) 75 74 77, Titiya Plucksataporn (THA) 77 72 77, Jessica Yadloczky (USA) 78 72 76
227 - Wannasiri Srisampant (THA) 76 74 77, Zuzana Kamasova (SVK) 77 75 75, Sophie Walker (ENG) 73 77 77
228 - Virginie Lagoutte-clement (FRA) 74 78 76, Ajira Nualraksa (THA) 76 76 76
229 - Pennapa Pulsawath (THA) 77 74 78, Tiffany Tavee (USA) 72 74 83, Stefanie Michl (AUT) 80 72 77, Vikki Laing (SCO) 79 71 79
230 - Julie Greciet (FRA) 75 77 78, Liebelei Lawrence (LUX) 70 77 83, Clare Queen (SCO) 77 73 80
231 - Janya Morrakotphan (THA) 74 74 83, Sarah Kemp (AUS) 77 75 79, Noon Huachai (THA) 76 76 79
232 - Nichakorn Rakasachat (THA) 75 77 80
233 - Millie Saroha (IND) 76 76 81
236 - Saruttaya Ngam-usawan (THA) 80 72 84
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