Yuka Saso triumphs in playoff to win U.S. Women's Open

Yuka Saso bounced back from two early double bogeys and bested Japan's Nasa Hataoka in the third hole of a sudden death playoff to win the 76th U.S. Women's Open.

Yuka Saso

Yuka Saso bounced back from two early double bogeys and bested Japan's Nasa Hataoka in the third hole of a sudden death playoff to win the 76th U.S. Women's Open golf championship at the Olympic Club in San Francisco on Sunday.

The 19-year-old Saso became the first Filipino player to win a golf major and announced herself as a new force in the game with her first major title. Saso pumped her first and smiled after nailing a 10-foot birdie putt for the win after overcoming the early adversity on a picture-perfect day at the Lake Course.

"I was actually upset," she said about the two double bogeys in her first three holes, which seemed to doom her chances.

"My caddie talked to me and said there are still many holes to go and to keep doing what I've been doing the past few days," she said.

"And to trust the process."

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All week Saso enjoyed the vocal support of fans from nearby Daly City, which is home to a large Filipino population.

Saso, who earlier in the tournament revealed she tried to emulate four-time men's major champion Rory McIlroy's swing, received encouragement from the Northern Irishman on social media on Sunday, which she said gave her a boost. "Rory said, 'Get that trophy,' and I did. So thank you, Rory," she said with a laugh.

 

At 19 years, 11 months and 17 days, Saso matched South Korea's Park Inbee to the day as the youngest champion at the women's game's oldest major.

Saso had to survive a late charge by Hataoka, who was seeking to become the latest Japanese major winner after Hideki Matsuyama triumphed at the Masters earlier this year.

After starting the day six strokes off the lead, Hataoka stormed from behind with three birdies on her last six holes but could only manage pars on the three playoff holes and could only watch on as Saso sank the winning shot.

HEARTBREAK FOR THOMPSON

The playoff came after American Lexi Thompson, who led by four strokes at the turn, suffered a heartbreaking collapse on the back nine.

Thompson, 26, had her elusive second major title in sight but lost her accuracy off the tee on the back nine and missed crucial putts on 17 as well as one on 18 that would have seen her into the playoff.

 

The popular American, who was playing in her 15th U.S. Women's Open, could only manage a disappointing four-over 75 on Sunday.

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Thompson, who on Saturday said she had been working on taking a more positive mindset to the game, said it was hard to smile but added that it was "an amazing week."

"I played not so well today with a few of the bogeys coming in on the back nine, but the fans were unbelievable, hearing the chants, it gives me a reason to play," she said.

"I'll take today and I'll learn from it."

The 76th edition of the U.S. Women's Open marked the first time that it has been played at the hilly and challenging Olympic Club, the oceanside course that has hosted five men's U.S. Opens. Next year's tournament will be played at Pine Needles Golf Club in North Carolina before it returns to California at Pebble Beach in 2023.

'Thank you, Rory'

Yuka Saso this week said that while she has never met Rory McIlroy, she has spent countless hours studying his swing on YouTube to try to emulate it.

The 19-year-old from the Philippines captured McIlroy's attention on Sunday as she won a thrilling playoff to claim her maiden, major crown.

"Everyone's going to be watching Yuka Saso swing videos on YouTube now," four-time men's major champion McIlroy wrote on Twitter after she hoisted the trophy.

"Congratulations!"

Saso bounced back from two double bogeys in her first three holes in her final round and got hot down the stretch to defeat Japan's Nasa Hataoka in the third hole of a sudden death playoff at San Francisco's Olympic Club.

She said an Instagram post from McIlroy prior to her round gave her a boost.

"Rory said, 'Get that trophy,' and I did. So thank you, Rory," she said with a laugh after her triumph.

Saso was also full of gratitude for fans back in the Philippines after becoming the Southeast Asian nation's first golf major champion.

"I'm just thankful that there's so many people in the Philippines cheering for me," she said.

"I don't know how to thank them. They gave me so much energy. I want to say thank you to everyone."

She also enjoyed the vocal support of fans at the South San Francisco course that borders Daly City, a city with a large Filipino population.

"It felt great. There's so many people holding up Philippines flags, and it's really big," she said.

"It made me really happy."

 

Fan favourite Thompson says will learn from heartbreaking defeat

Lexi Thompson admitted it was hard to smile after a painful back nine collapse at the U.S. Women's Open on Sunday, but the American fan favourite said she would learn from the experience and come back stronger.

The overnight leader had her second major championship in her sights with a four-stroke lead after her first nine holes, but her tee shot on the par-four 11th found the Olympic Club's thick rough and she could only manage a double bogey.

She lost her lead with a bogey on the par-five 17th and left a par putt short on 18 that would have put her into the playoff with Japan's Nasa Hataoka and eventual champion Yuka Saso of the Philippines.

"Of course it's tough," the 26-year-old told reporters after her final round 75.

"I really didn't feel like I hit any bad golf shots. That's what this golf course can do to you, and that's what I've said all week."

The windy Olympic Club's unforgiving layout features narrow fairways, nasty rough and small greens and Thompson said a few bad breaks down the stretch doomed her chances.

"On 17, I mean, I didn't hit a bad drive," she said.

"The wind just never got it and then it tried to bounce right, and I've never seen a lie that bad," she said.

"That's what this course can do. Just got the wind wrong on a few shots coming in."

After taking a one-stroke lead on Saturday with a bogey-free 66, she said she had been focused on taking a more positive attitude to the game she has been playing professionally since the age of 15.

Thompson, who won her only major in 2014 when she was 19, said she will continue to focus on the positives.

"Of course it's hard to smile but it was an amazing week," she said.

"I played not so well today with a few of the bogeys coming in on the back nine, but the fans were unbelievable and hearing the chants gives me a reason to play.

"It was just an unbelievable feeling to be out here and play this golf course. I've never been out here, so it was a blessing, and I'll take today and I'll learn from it."

Thompson said she was already looking ahead to next week's LPGA Tour event at nearby Lake Merced Golf Club, where she will be gunning for her 12th win on the LPGA Tour.

"I have a tournament next week," she said.

"So we'll take it from here."

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