Photo courtesy by Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
By Amado Inigo
MANILA — Fil-Japanese Yuka Saso outlasted Nasa Hataoka in a sudden-death playoff in the final round at the Olympic Club in San Francisco on Sunday (Monday, Manila time) to win the US Women’s Open.
Saso, who created a stir and history for the Philippines in the 2018 Asian Games, nailed a birdie putt in the ninth hole to take her first-ever LPGA title, and a first for a Filipina.
She created history for PH three years ago as she earned the country’s first ever gold medal for the Philippines in both women’s individual and women’s team events in Asian Games golf competitions.
Yuka Saso studies her putt in this file photo (Photo courtesy by ABS-CBN News)
With her sterling performance, Saso thus became the youngest US LPGA Woman’s Open Champion and is the first major champion winner, man or woman, to compete from the Philippines.
It was not, however, a walk in the park for the young lady from San Ildefonso, Bulacan who will only turn 20 on the 20th this month of June.
She needed steely nerves in digging herself out of the rough with her second shot in the ninth to place herself in a position for the win.
International newswire AFP claimed Hataoka looked like she had the better tee shot there when she went into the fairway while Saso landed on the rough.
The playoff came when Saso and Hataoka were knotted up at 4-under par after the 72nd hole.
Saso had to bounce back from two early double bogeys and recovered in the back nine.
At one point, Saso fell behind the leader by six shots but kept her focus AFP said.
She actually had her first chance to win it all in the eighteenth playoff hole when Hataoka missed a birdie and settled for a par putt.
But nerves seemed to get the better of her at that moment when she putted downhill and settled for the playoff-extending putt.
Saso is the first Filipino to win a major golf tournament and is tied for the youngest woman golf player ever to do so.
Erstwhile leader Lexi Thompson, who held a one-shot lead over Saso on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), settled for a third-place finish after going 4-over par in the final round.
Saso thus 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. (AI/MTVN/ With reports from AFP)