THIS Open season has been a boon thus far and we are not yet done.
American Phil Mickelson’s historic win as a 50-year-old at the men’s PGA Championship last month was definitely one for the ages, in the truest sense.
And not to be outdone, teenager Yaku Saso etched her name into the history books with a deserved playoff victory in the US Women’s Open last weekend – the first player from the Philippines, man or woman, to win a Major golf title.
Saso’s win was particularly heart-warming as it came on the back of some real quality golf.
Throughout the tournament at the Olympic Golf Club in San Francisco, California she steadily led the event or kept in touch with the top of the leaderboard when she needed to.
At the start of the last round she stumbled somewhat with a double-bogey and bogey at the 2nd and 3rd holes. A birdie at the 7th helped but when she bogeyed the 11th it did not look too good. Nonetheless, two birdies at the 16th and penultimate holes swung it her way and secured her a playoff spot with Japan’s Nasa Hataoka.
Nineteen year-old Saso prevailed in a three-hole playoff after both players finished with four-under-par 280 totals – one shot ahead of third round leader American Lexi Thompson.
For Thompson, an 11-time LPGA Tour winner, including a Major (2014 ANA Inspiration), this was bitter pill to swallow.
She led by five strokes after the 8th hole in the last round. And in many ways, her catastrophic collapse is what left the door ajar for Saso and 22-year-old Hataoka.
With her triumph, Saso matched In-Bee Park to the day, in becoming the youngest ever player to lift the US Women’s Open trophy after she won the event in 2008 at the age of 19 years 11 months and 17 days.
The win also kept up the trend of Asian dominance in the women’s game.
When Thompson was cruising with her five-shot lead that somehow looked unassailable, little did she, and the rest of the US, know that heartache lay just around the corner.
The Americans have now not won any of the five majors in women’s golf since Angela Stanford clinched the 2018 Evian Championship.
Eleven of those 14 Major championship wins went to Asia, with the other three were shipped to Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg (2018 ANA Inspiration), Australian Hannah Green (2019 Women’s PGA Championship) and German Sophia Popov (2020 Women’s British Open).
South Korean Jin Young Ko won the 2019 ANA Inspiration, on her way to becoming the world number one, while her compatriot Mirim Lee did it in 2020 and Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit this season.
Koreans Kim A-Lim and Jeong-eun Lee6 won the US Women’s Open in 2020 and 2019, with Thai Ariya Jutanugarn taking the honours in 2018.
Sei Young Kim and Sung Hyun Park, also of Korea, claimed the Women’s PGA Championship in 2018 and 2020, respectively, while in 2019 Ko won the Evian Championship and Japan’s Hinako Shibuno broke through with the Women’s British Open.
At Olympic Club, Megha Ganne proved a star in her own right and won the Silver Medal as the low amateur. She tied for 14th place on three-over-par.
The next women’s Major will be at Atlanta Athletic Club in Georgia where the Women’s PGA Championship will be held from June 24 to 27. There should be thrills and spills there too.