U.S. Women’s Open
Philippines Has Its First Major Winner In Teenager Saso
Philippine teenager Yuka Saso birdied the third playoff hole to beat Japan’s Nasa Hataoka and win the US Women’s Open at Olympic Club.
Shaking off two early double bogeys, Saso came back with late birdies at 16 and 17 in a two-over 73 to thrust herself into a playoff with a four-under total of 280. As overnight leader Lexi Thompson faded, Hataoka carded a final-round 68, but after both she and Saso parred both holes of the two-hole aggregate playoff, it was Saso who came up with a birdie at the sudden-death third hole.
Saso matched South Korean Park In-bee as the youngest winners in the championship’s history at 19 years, 11 months and 17 days, and earned her LPGA tour membership.
“I’m just thankful that there’s so many people in the Philippines cheering for me,” said Saso, whose professional resume included two Japan LPGA victories but no wins on the US LPGA tour. “I don’t know how to thank them. They gave me so much energy. I want to say thank you to everyone.”
Saso had held the 36-hole lead and started the day one shot off Thompson’s lead. But she was in trouble early with double bogeys at the second and third. “I was actually upset,” she said. “My caddie talked to me, said there’s still many holes to go - just keep doing what I was doing the last few days and trust the process.”
Staying at two-under the rest of the way, Saso’s long birdie putt to win at the 72nd hole didn’t drop, but she rattled in the par putt to force the playoff.
Final round leader Thompson was five strokes up on the front nine but a double bogey at 11 signalled the start of a slide. By the 18th green, she had lost her entire lead and was left with a 10-foot par putt to make the playoff, but fell two feet short.
“That’s what this golf course can do to you,” said Thompson of the imposing par-71 Lake Course at Olympic, which has hosted five men’s US Opens but had never before hosted a women’s major. She finished with a four-over par 75 that left her alone in third on 281.
Hataoka seemed an unlikely title challenger as the day began. She was six shots off the lead and came within a whisker of completing the greatest final-round rally in US Women’s Open history. Six birdies put her first in the clubhouse on 280, and it wasn’t long until she was joined there by Saso.
It was Hataoka’s fourth LPGA tour playoff and her second in a major, but in each one she has come up empty.