Sunday's golf: Yuka Saso wins US Women's Open on 3rd playoff hole

Associated Press
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San Francisco — Yuka Saso modeled her golf game after Rory McIlroy, spending hours watching videos of his swing before going to bed each night in order to perfect her own.

All that work paid off and now Saso is a U.S. Open champion just like her idol thanks to a clutch playoff putt after a back-nine collapse by Lexi Thompson.

Yuka Saso, of the Philippines, celebrates her victory during the final round of the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament at The Olympic Club, Sunday, June 6, 2021, in San Francisco. Saso defeated Nasa Hataoka, of Japan, in a three-hole playoff.

Saso's 10-foot putt for birdie on the third playoff hole Sunday helped her edge out Nasa Hataoka and become the second teenager to win the U.S. Women's Open.

Saso overcame back-to-back double bogeys early in the round to make the playoff and then became the first player from the Philippines to win a golf major.

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

Both players made pars at Nos. 9 and 18 in the two-hole aggregate playoff, sending the tournament to sudden death back at the ninth hole. That set the stage for Saso to win it just up the road from Daly City, dubbed "Little Manila" for its large population of Filipinos.

There were many on hand for the final round, including several with Filipino flags for the occasion.

“I don’t know what’s happening in the Philippines right now, but 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.”

Saso matched 2008 winner Inbee Park as the youngest U.S. Women’s Open champion at 19 years, 11 months, 17 days.

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Thompson, who had a five-stroke lead after the eighth hole, played the final seven holes in 5 over to finish a stroke back.

“I really didn’t feel like I hit any bad golf shots,” she said. “That’s what this golf course can do to you."

The only other players to finish under par on the Lake Course at Olympic Club were Megan Khang and Shanshan Feng, who both were at 2 under.

High school junior Megha Ganne played in the final group but shot 77 and finished 3 over as the low amateur for the tournament.

“I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life,” Ganne said. “It’s everything I’ve wanted since I was little, so it’s just the best feeling.”

Saso has talked frequently about her time studying McIlroy’s swing and the four-time major winner said he saw the similarities and was flattered by it. McIlroy also send Saso an Instagram message before the final round imploring her to get the trophy.

“I saw it this morning, and I was like, ‘Ohhh!’" she said. “I should have reposted it but I was so busy this morning, so I’ll do it later. I felt really happy.”

Saso got the trophy after a rough start to the final round with double bogeys on the second and third holes that seemed to knock her out of contention. She managed to steady herself with a birdie at No. 7.

Saso then made back-to-back birdies on the par-5 16th and 17th holes to get to 4 under and join Hataoka in the playoff. Hataoka used a run of three birdies in a four-hole span on the back nine that put pressure on Thompson.

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Thompson wilted down the stretch, making this the seventh straight LPGA Tour major won by a first-time winner.

The first U.S. Women's Open on the fabled Lake Course at the Olympic Club ended up like so many of the previous five times the men competed for the national championship here.

The 54-hole leader didn’t win any of those five U.S. Opens played by the men, helping the Olympic Club earn the moniker of the “Graveyard of Champions.” Previous winners Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Payne Stewart, Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell all got caught on the final day at Olympic and were denied their titles.

Thompson had a five-stroke lead when she walked off the eighth green but she squandered it all on the back nine. She made a double bogey at No. 12, a bogey at 14 and then a bogey 6 on the par-5 17th that was reachable in two shots based on the tee location.

“I didn’t hit a bad drive,” Thompson said. “The wind just never got it and then it tried to bounce right, and I’ve never seen a lie that bad. That’s what this course can do. Just got the wind wrong on a few shots coming in.”

Her approach shot on the par-4 18th ended up un the bunker and then she missed a 10-foot putt to make the playoff.

That left her winless in 15 tries at the U.S. Women's Open that she first competed in as a 12-year-old in 2007.

Thompson was unable to add a second major to the one she won at the ANA Inspiration in 2014. It was another final day disappointment to go with the one that happened at that same tournament in 2017 when she was penalized four strokes during the final round for misplacing her marked ball the previous day and lost in a playoff.

“It’s hard to smile, but it was an amazing week,” Thompson said.

PGA Tour

Patrick Cantlay delivered a clutch birdie late in the round and a 12-foot par putt in a playoff to win the Memorial on a Sunday filled with drama, a little rain and no Jon Rahm.

Cantlay closed with a 1-under 71 and won the Memorial for the second time in three years, and he said he felt the same range of emotions in the final hour at Muirfield Village in his duel with Collin Morikawa.

Patrick Cantlay hits to the fourth green during the final round of the Memorial golf tournament, Sunday, June 6, 2021, in Dublin, Ohio.

But it wasn't the same.

Only a day earlier, Cantlay walked off the 18th green six shots behind Rahm, whose 64 ranked as one of the great rounds at the course Jack Nicklaus built and tied two Memorial records, including largest 54-hole lead.

But he tested positive for the coronavirus — Rahm had been in the contact tracing protocol — and was withdrawn from the tournament.

Just like that, Cantlay and Morikawa went from six shots behind to tied for the lead.

And for so much of the final round, it stayed that way. Morikawa surged ahead with an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 15th, while Cantlay missed birdie putts from 8 feet to tie him on the 15th, and then on the par-3 16th.

The round was halted for about five minutes because of a pop-up downpour while they were on the 17th green. When it resumed, Cantlay holed a 25-foot birdie putt to tie, and Morikawa stayed in the game with a 12-foot par.

Cantlay had a 25-foot birdie putt for the win on the 18th in regulation that grazed the right side of the cup, leaving he and Morikawa (71) at 13-under 275.

Rahm finished his 54 holes at 18-under 198, tying the Memorial record. No one had ever lost a lead that large in the final round at Muirfield Village, though it has happened six times on the PGA Tour, most recently by Dustin Johnson in Shanghai in 2017.

Nicklaus figured the awkward situation for Cantlay and Morikawa would be one more element for them to battle.

“It was such a weird situation, so unfortunate,” Cantlay said. “Everyone, me included, knows it would be totally different today if that hadn't happened. But there's nothing I could do about it. I tried as hard as I could to reset and refocus.”

It led to the fourth victory of his PGA Tour career, and second this season. Cantlay also won the ZoZo Championship in California last October, rallying from a three-shot deficit to beat Rahm and Justin Thomas.

He becomes the seventh player to win multiple times at the Memorial, a list that starts with Tiger Woods winning five times and even Nicklaus, the tournament founder, winning twice.

Morikawa won at Muirfield Village last year, just not the Memorial. He won in a playoff against Thomas at the Workday Charity Open, a one-time even when the pandemic forced the John Deere Classic to be canceled.

In that tournament, Morikawa twice had to watch as Thomas had a putt on the 18th green to win, and he survived to win on the third extra hole.

This time, he escaped one birdie chance by Cantlay in regulation. On the 18th in the playoff, Morikawa had a small piece of mud on his ball and came up well short from the fairway into deep rough. He chipped out to 6 feet.

Cantlay was well right and hacked it out into a bunker, but his shot from the wet sand rolled out 12 feet. It was on the same line as his 25-foot birdie attempt in regulation, and this time he poured it in for par. Moments later, Morikawa missed his 6-footer and Cantlay let out a big exhale before going over to shake hands with Nicklaus.

Scottie Scheffler, who started three shots behind after Rahm was knocked out of the tournament, was tied for the lead with a birdie on the 15th. His last chance ended when he missed a 6-foot par putt on the 18th. That gave him a 70, and he finished alone in third, two shots behind.

PGA Tour Champions

Stephen Ames won the Principal Charity Classic on Sunday for his second PGA Tour Champions title, taking advantage of Tim Herron's final-round collapse.

Seven strokes behind Herron entering the round, Ames shot a 5-under 67 for a one-stroke victory over fellow Canadian Mike Weir.

“Everybody else kind of faltered coming in, unfortunately for those, but fortunate for me,” Ames said. “I had a second Atlanta and I had three other top-10s on top of that, so things were starting to shape up. It’s just a matter of putting things together and obviously getting fortunate, which is what happened this week for me.”

A four-time winner on the PGA Tour, Ames won the 2017 Mitsubishi Electric Classic for his first senior title. The 57-year-old naturalized Canadian citizen from Trinidad finished at 12-under 204 at Wakonda Club.

“It’s the kind of golf course that has to grow on you,” Ames said “You definitely have to play it a few times to understand the nuances of it, the bounces, where to hit it when it’s running: I think this week the superintendent did a fantastic job getting the golf course in the best shape I’ve seen it for the years that I’ve played it.”

Weir closed with a 69.

Herron bogeyed three of the final five holes in a 76 that left him tied for third at 10 under. He missed a chance for his first senior victory after winning four times on the PGA Tour.

“Hopefully, I guess you learn from it even at age 51,” Heron said. “It was a little rough. Worked on some swing changes and I think my old swing kind of came back a little bit. I was guiding it a little bit, but it was pretty windy today and just didn’t get any momentum going.”

Willie Wood (68) and Doug Barron (71) matched Herron at 10 under.

European Tour

Maverick Antcliff of Australia shot a 4-under 68 to share a one-stroke lead with England’s Matthew Southgate after the second round of the European Open on Sunday.

Antcliff had a bogey-free opening round and followed up with five birdies and a bogey in the second.

The tournament at Green Eagle Golf Courses was shortened to 54 holes — and its start postponed by two days to Saturday — to allow players and tour staff from the United Kingdom extra time to deal with Germany’s travel restrictions.

Antcliff and Southgate go into Monday's final round narrowly ahead of Darius Van Driel of the Netherlands, Edoardo Molinari of Italy and Scottish players Scott Jamieson and David Law.

Thomas Detry, who shot a 68 for the opening-round lead, started Sunday with two bogeys. Three birdies and a double-bogey left the Dane two shots off the lead.

Up to 2,000 spectators were allowed due to a declining rate of coronavirus infections.

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