Japan's Saso wins Women's Open for 2nd time



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LANCASTER, Pa. — As she stood on the 18th green at Lancaster Country Club late Sunday, clutching the Harton S. Semple Trophy for the second time in her young career, Yuka Saso paused, looked down and let the wave of emotion register.

“My family,” she said tearfully, eventually speaking after the horde of onlookers gathered around the hole clapped and cheered encouragement, “I wouldn’t be here without their support.”

It was fitting then that three years after gifting her mom with a U.S. Women’s Open win, Saso, 22, could give a similar present to her father.

“It’s just a wonderful feeling that I was able to give back to my parents in the same way,” Saso said.

In 2021, Saso became the first golfer from the Philippines — the country of her mother’s origin — to win the U.S. Women’s Open. Months later, while holding dual Philippine/Japanese citizenship, she decided to instead solely represent her father’s native Japan and has been playing underneath that country’s banner since.

Saso’s win puts her in position to compete for Japan at the Olympics later this summer. She represented the Philippines in the Tokyo Games in 2021.

Sunday’s victory was also the first Saso has had in any tournament since her first U.S. Women’s Open win. The long layoff between trophy presentations caused her to wonder if she ever would finish atop an event again.

“I definitely had a little doubt if I can win again,” she said. “It just makes it special because after a long wait — I wasn’t expecting to win the U.S. Women’s Open. Every time, last time, too, I wasn’t expecting it, and this time, too, I wasn’t expecting it.

“I think that’s why it made me a bit emotional.”

Saso won $2.4 million from the $12 million purse, the largest in women’s golf and in women’s sports at a stand-alone venue.

At 22 years, 347 days, she became the youngest two-time champion in Open history.

This time, her win was the byproduct of a furious charge up the leaderboard on the final day. She entered at 2 under overall, 3 shots off the lead.

By the end of the day, Saso stood alone, carding a 2-under 68 for a 3-shot win. On an afternoon that saw much of the top of the field collapse, Saso’s win was all but decided before the final two groups came off the course.

As she buried a par putt on No. 18 to all but ice the victory, Saso gave a muted, left-armed fist pump, hugged caddie Dylan Vallequette, and casually walked off the course as several fans loudly chanted, “Yu! Yu! Yu!”

“I’m not sure how the other players played. I wasn’t looking at the scoreboard,” Saso said. “I wasn’t too relaxed to be able to see the scoreboard. I just tried to be focused on my routine and my game.”

With Saso rattling off four back-nine birdies — helping to negate a double bogey on No. 6 — her competitors lost their respective grips on the lead.

First, it was Wichanee Meechai. A co-leader entering Sunday at 5 under, Meechai was flat early, with bogeys on the first two holes and a double bogey on the par-3 sixth. Meechai’s tee shot on No. 6 approached the pin firmly and at first looked like a potential birdie opportunity. But instead of sticking its landing, the ball slipped off one of the course’s notoriously unforgiving greens and fell into a water hazard along the left side.

“It’s the U.S. Open. The pins were so hard,” Meechai said. “Sometimes you can play bad golf on one day, but I’m kind of proud of myself that I can handle this week pretty good.”

Meechai finished tied for sixth; in three previous tries at the Open, she had never finished better than 30th.

While Meechai was falling out of the lead, her fellow co-leaders entering the day also couldn’t keep pace. Minjee Lee had a hellacious back nine, sandwiching a pair of bogeys with double bogeys on Nos. 12 and 14. She finished tied for ninth.

American Andrea Lee, 25, had a pair of costly bogeys on the final two holes to drop to even for the tournament and into a tie for third.

“I definitely learned a lot this week about myself,” said Lee, who’s from Southern California. “I do belong out here, and I feel like I am good enough to win and be in contention for major championships. I just need to do better.”

Another American, Ally Ewing, 31, had Sunday’s best score, a 66. After opening the round 9 shots off the lead at 4 over, Ewing finished just 4 shots back.

“For any golfer, we want to peak around major championships,” Ewing said. “Starting the week with a 4 over and then just gradually playing the golf course better and better, executing more shots, it’s just a really good feeling.

“This was where I made my first professional U.S. Open start, so really good memories for Lancaster now.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.



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