The U.S. Women’s Open is the biggest event in the women’s game – so of course, it was a treat to see even more golf after 72 holes.
After Nasa Hataoka and Yuka Saso were tied at 4-under after regulation, the duo played two holes of an aggregate playoff. They were tied after that as well, but Saso knocked her approach on the third playoff hole to just 15 feet.
The putt was good all the way.
Saso, whose swing has drawn comparisons to Rory McIlroy all week – and even got a shoutout by the man himself on Instagram on Sunday morning – took his advice to heart in the final round.
McIlroy, a four-time major winner himself, wrote “Go finish it out today and get that (trophy).” And Saso did just that.
“I saw it this morning,” Saso said of McIlroy’s post, “and I was like, ‘ohhh. I should have reposted it’ but I was so busy this morning, so I’ll do it later. I felt really happy.
McIlroy came back on social media Sunday night to congratulate the latest major winner, and with the win Saso earns LPGA Tour status, which, she said, she would take up immediately.
By winning the U.S. Women’s Open Saso became the first golfer from the Philippines to win a major championship. In a crazy coincidence Saso also tied Inbee Park to become the youngest U.S. Women’s Open winner in history – down to the day. Both golfers were 19 years, 11 months, and 17 days old when they won.
Saso shot a 2-over 73 on Sunday but it was good enough to get her into a playoff. She recovered nicely after making double bogey on both No. 2 and No. 3 early in her round by notching birdies on No’s 16 and 17.
She also recovered from a bout of nausea.
“Actually my stomach hurt a little after finishing up my 18 holes,” said Saso. “After the two-hole playoff, I ate a banana and that made me feel better.”
Hataoka, meanwhile, was looking to become the second golfer from Japan to win a major championship this year after Hideki Matsuyama won the Masters in April.
“I told myself that I do have a chance,” she said. “I keep trying and trying, and that’s where I am.”
Instead, she leaves another major empty handed. Her 3-under-par 68 was one of the best rounds of the day Sunday, but her loss to Saso was her second loss in a playoff at a major.
GREAT FINISH FOR BROOKE HENDERSON
Golf Town Athlete Brooke Henderson shot a 1-under 70 on Sunday and finished at 1-over for the championship. Although she ended up five shots back of the playoff score, she finished tied for 7th.
“A lot of positives to take away from the week,” said Brooke. “Definitely to finish with a birdie or eagle on 17 and then par on 18, which is another really tough hole, was definitely a bonus and hopefully Top 10 sticks.”
Brooke wasn’t sure where she would end up on the leaderboard when she spoke after her round, but she did end up staying inside the top 10, her 12th career top-10 finish at a major!
It was also her fifth top-10 finish this season, including a victory in April at the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open.
Brooke is in the middle of a busy stretch of golf.
Next week the LPGA Tour stays in the San Francisco area before it heads to the Meijer LPGA Classic where Brooke is the defending champion. After that it’s the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – the one major Brooke has won in her career.
Brooke won the Meijer in 2019 and the event was cancelled last year due to COVID-19 challenges. Brooke also won the event in 2017 with a laugh, said they changed the course a lot and “maybe they were tired of me there.”
“So, I’ll have to do a lot of scouting and get used to the course out there,” said Brooke. “But I definitely love that atmosphere and the fans are always great.”
TOUGH DAY FOR LEXI
Through most of the day it looked like it would have been Lexi Thompson’s championship to lose, as she led by five shots at one point. However, she stumbled mightily on the back nine and shot a 5-over 41. She ended up, after making bogey on her last hole of the day, one shot back of the playoff.
“Just honestly tried not to focus on it,” said Thompson about the leaderboard on Sunday. “I just wanted to come out today and play my game like I have the last few days, and no matter what happened, I knew if I just committed to my game plan and what I’ve been working on in my swing, I just want to see it keep on improving over time. Just got a few bad breaks, but that’s golf.”