Thitikul birdies final hole for Dow Championship win with Yin

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MIDLAND, Mich. — Atthaya “Jeeno” Thitikul of Thailand made a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole as she and Ruoning Yin of China won the Dow Championship on Sunday by closing with an 8-under 62 in the fourballs format.

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Thitikul and and Yin, good friends who each briefly were No. 1 in the women’s world ranking, gave themselves a team nickname of “Jin and Ronic” and had every reason to celebrate.

They led by two on the back nine over Ally Ewing and Jennifer Kupcho until Ewing nearly single-handedly rallied to tie for the lead. Ewing birdied the 14th and 15th holes at Midland Country Club and hit a tough chip to save par on the 16th to stay tied.

Thitikul and Ruoning played in the group ahead, and Thitikul hit a tee shot on the par-3 18th over water to 12 feet behind the cup. Her birdie putt was true all the way, and they were all smiles as they headed to the clubhouse to see if it would hold up.

“I was so nervous,” Thitikul said. “I knew this putt was for both of us. I wanted to make it so bad.”

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The key to fourballs is to have two looks at birdies on every hole, and Ewing was having to carry the load down the stretch. Kupcho started misfiring off the tee and with her irons, and she was scrambling for par. Ewing kept them in the game with her steady play.

Knowing they needed birdie on the final hole, Kupcho made a shot that came up short and rolled back, spared from going into the water by a thick patch of rough. But it gave her a tough chip up a slope to the green, and she left it some 15 feet short.

Ewing had about 25 feet below the hole for a birdie chance to force a playoff, but it was on the low side of the cup the whole way and they had to settle for par and a 64.

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“We got off to a slow start, but we hung in there. It wasn’t easy,” Ewing said. “I think in these tournaments, if you get to hole 18 and you have a chance to win the golf tournament or force a playoff, that’s all you ask for.”

Ewing and Kupcho have been teammates in the Solheim Cup but never partners. That might change for this year, particularly in foursomes.

“It was a fun week with Jen, and it’s hopefully something we can do again at the Solheim,” Ewing said.

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Kupcho won the Dow Championship two years ago with Lizette Salas as her teammate.

The Dow Championship is the only official team event on the LPGA Tour. Thitikul and Yin each get credit for their third career LPGA title, and each won $366,082. That was enough to push Yin over $1 million for the year with her first official LPGA win since the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last year.

“We just had a lot of fun,” Yin said. “We keep each other accountable. For that (winning) putt, I had a feeling she’s going to make it. Just walk in.”

Then she looked over at Thitikul and said with a smile, “Good job.”

Nanna Koerstz Madsen and Nicole Broch Estrup of Denmark closed with a 63 and tied for third with the South Korea duo of Haeji Kang and In Kyung Kim, who shot a 65.

Lexi Thompson and Brooke Henderson had 14 teams in front of them when they started the final round and never had a serious chance. They shot 63 but still finished six shots behind in a tie for eighth.

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