News & Opinion

Dream comes alive for Yuka Saso at U.S. Women’s Open

Yuka Saso wins 2021 U.S. Women's Open
Yuka Saso celebrates her victory Sunday at the U.S. Women’s Open at San Francisco’s Olympic Club.

Filipina 19-year-old holds off Japan’s Nasa Hataoka after Lexi Thompson throws away 5-stroke lead on back 9 at Olympic Club

Yuka Saso had a dream as a child, and it came to life on a sun-splashed Sunday in the Bay Area.

Saso, 19, of the Philippines, defeated Japan’s Nasa Hataoka with a birdie on the third playoff hole to win the U.S. Women's Open at San Francisco’s Olympic Club. They had tied at 4-under 280.

It was the first LPGA victory for Saso, who earned $1 million. She has won twice on the Japan LPGA.

“My dream was to be world No. 1 and win a U.S. Open, but I didn’t think I would be holding this trophy,” she said.

Saso and Hataoka matched pars on the first two holes of the USGA’s two-hole aggregate playoff before returning to the par-4 ninth for sudden death.

Megha Ganne at 2021 U.S. Women's Open
Megha Ganne, a 17-year-old high school senior from New Jersey, checks her line while playing competitor Lexi Thompson consults with her caddie during Sunday’s final round of the U.S. Women’s Open at San Francisco’s Olympic Club. 

Saso nearly had her dream become a nightmare early in Sunday’s round. She managed only a par on the reachable par-5 first hole, then stumbled with double bogeys on her second and third holes. Meanwhile, playing competitor Lexi Thompson, the 54-hole leader, birdied two of her first five holes and had opened a five-stroke lead midway through the round. But Thompson collapsed on the back nine in a quest for her first victory in two years. After a double bogey at No. 11, she bogeyed Nos. 14 and 17 before dumping a gap wedge into a front bunker and failing to get up and down for par at the 18th to join the playoff. She signed for a 75 and solo third place at 3-under 281.

“Things weren’t going my way for the first few holes,” Saso said, “but my caddie [Lionel Matichuk] told me we have many holes to go and to trust myself and keep going.

“I knew there were par 5s on the last few holes that were reachable and that I might get my chance, and I did.”

She birdied Nos. 16 and 17 and signed for a 73 to match Hataoka, who birdied three of her final six holes to shoot 3-under 68.

Megha Ganne, a 17-year-old high school senior from New Jersey who shared the first-round lead, struggled with a final-round 77. She finished T-14 at 3-over 287 to be low amateur.

“No disappointment at all,” said Ganne, who intends to return to the Bay Area in the fall of 2022 when she enrolls at Stanford. “A bit of a confidence-booster for the rest of the summer.”

(For scores, click here.)

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