U.S. Women’s Open: Yuka Saso Wins, Extending a Majors Drought by Americans

SAN FRANCISCO — Yuka Saso of the Philippines bent her leg like a flamingo, utilizing her physique language to will within the birdie putt. It was the primary playoff gap after Saso and Nasa Hataoka of Japan completed 72 holes of the 76th United States Women’s Open on Sunday tied at four-under 280, one stroke higher than the third-round chief, the American Lexi Thompson.

But Saso had been responding to Hataoka’s putt, and when it fell quick, she seemed extra disillusioned than her opponent. After prevailing on the primary gap of sudden demise — the third playoff gap — when her personal birdie putt dropped, Saso, 19, defined her response.

“I just don’t want to be selfish,” Saso mentioned. “Everyone here is a great player. If it’s their time, it’s their time, if it’s my time, it’s my time. I just want to cheer everybody.”

As she stood staring on the trophy, Saso, a first-time main winner, seemed as if she couldn’t fairly consider that her time had arrived. Both gamers had parred on the 2 mixture playoffs holes earlier than Saso’s birdie putt tied her with Inbee Park because the youngest champion within the match’s historical past.

“I was just looking at all the great players in here,” Saso mentioned. “I can’t believe my name is going to be here.”

It positively didn’t seem like Saso’s day when she posted consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 2 and three to drop 5 strokes behind Thompson on the Olympic Club’s Lake Course.

“I was actually a little upset,” Saso mentioned. “But my caddie talked to me and said, ‘Just keep on going; there’s many more holes to go.’ That’s what I did.”

Thompson was making an attempt to win her second main title, and her first since 2014, and snap a 10-major winless streak by American ladies.

Thompson had a one-stroke result in begin the spherical and held a five-stroke lead over Saso with 9 to play, however faltered as Saso surged. She had a bogey-bogey end to shut with a 75. That was 9 strokes greater than her third-round rating.

Speaking whereas the playoff was getting underway, Thompson mentioned, “I just wanted to come out today and play my game like I have the last few days.”

Thompson added, “Just got a few bad breaks, but that’s golf.”

Thompson, 26, knew the ultimate spherical was going to be a nervy sport of musical holes. For her to be the final one standing when the holes ran out, she was going to have to interrupt with venerable Olympic Club custom. Webb Simpson rallied from 4 strokes off the result in win the boys’s Open on the Olympic Club in 2012. Lee Janzen got here from 5 again to win right here in 1998. Arnold Palmer frittered away a seven-stroke benefit on the ultimate 9 in 1966, then misplaced a playoff to Billy Casper, who birdied 4 of his ultimate holes. Scott Simpson, no relation to Webb, closed with a 68 to move Tom Watson in 1987.

Nasa Hataoka of Japan reacts after lacking a putt on No. 18.Credit…Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Hataoka, taking part in within the group instantly forward of Thompson, went on a Casper-esque cost with birdies at Nos. 13, 14 and 15. Saso gained three strokes on Thompson on the 16th and 17th, each par 5s, drawing even together with her at 4 beneath after she birdied each.

Playing within the ultimate group alongside Thompson and Saso was Megha Ganne, 17, a highschool junior from Holmdel, N.J.

The final time a U.S. Open was held at Olympic Club, a 17-year-old newbie additionally started the ultimate spherical lurking 4 strokes off the lead, as did Ganne. The earlier teenage interloper was Beau Hossler, who struggled to a 76 and completed tied for 29th.

Ganne hit her drive on the par-5 first gap into deep tough, resulting in her first double bogey of the match. It was a harbinger of the grind that was forward for Ganne, who closed with a 77 to complete tied for 14th, one stroke forward of the next-best newbie, Maja Stark of Sweden (74).

“I’ll remember this for the rest of my life,” Ganne mentioned.

Lexi Thompson of the United States reacts to her first putt on No. 17. Credit…Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Thompson was battling historical past’s headwinds, too. A U.S.-born lady hadn’t received a main since Angela Stanford on the 2018 Evian Championship, and within the 5 males’s Opens held on the Olympic Club, not one of the 54-hole leaders held on to win.

And then there was Thompson’s private travails within the majors. Since profitable the 2014 ANA Inspiration, she had endured a number of close to misses, posting eight top-five finishes, together with a playoff defeat on the 2017 ANA Inspiration after a tv viewer’s statement led to a four-stroke penalty being tacked to her rating on the ultimate day.

Through all of it, she preserved traces of the playful, unaffected 12-year-old that certified for the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open. They have been there in her good-luck ladybug earrings, which she wore on Sunday, and her willingness to have interaction with youthful gamers like Ganne.

Pro is a little phrase that may pack a chew far deeper than its breadth, and Thompson, who shed her newbie standing in 2010, at age 15, was not resistant to the loneliness, the self-doubts, the tedium of spending months away from dwelling and the rootlessness of residing out of a suitcase that include taking part in for pay. Bright-eyed amateurs see solely the blessings: the supportive followers, the stainless programs, the positive clubhouse eating.

And so if she was to get again to her playful, unaffected teenage self, Thompson wanted to redirect her focus in order that she considered golf as play and never as work. She enlisted the assistance of a psychologist based mostly in Florida, John Denney, with whom she had labored early in her profession, and their conversations, which they’ve a number of occasions a week, have helped her flip the change. From feeling nervousness or anguish to gratitude. From feeling burdened by strain to blessed by alternatives.

Thompson walked the stroll. She compelled a smile as she exited the 18th inexperienced after her strategy, from 109 yards, discovered a bunker, and after she blasted out to 12 toes and left the par putt quick.

Thompson’s eyes welled with tears and her voice quavered. She smiled wanly and mentioned, “Yeah, I performed not so good right this moment with a few of the bogeys coming in on the again 9.

She added, “I’ll take right this moment and I’ll be taught from it and have a lot extra weeks forward, a lot extra years.”