SAN FRANCISCO — Yuka Saso birdied the third playoff hole to beat Nasa Hataoka on Sunday and become the second teenager to win the U.S. Women’s Open after Lexi Thompson collapsed down the stretch.
Saso overcame back-to-back double bogeys early in the round to make the playoff. She then won it with a 10-foot putt on the ninth hole to become the first player from the Philippines to win a golf major.
Saso matched 2008 winner Inbee Park as the youngest U.S. Women’s Open champion at 19 years, 11 months, 17 days.
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 the Pinoy Capital of the United States for its large population of Filipinos.
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, and that’s what I’ve said all week.”
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 overcame a rough start to the final round with double bogeys on the second and third holes that seemed to knock her out of contention but 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.
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.
But Thompson drove into the rough and came up short of the green on her third shot before two-putting for bogey to fall into a three-way tie for first when Saso made her second straight birdie to join Nasa Hataoka at 4 under.
“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.
She appeared in control when she birdied No. 5 to take a five-shot lead. She walked the front nine course with a quiet confidence, breaking into a few smiles when she heard the “Go Lexi!” cheers from the fans in the galleries who were a welcome site in the first LPGA tournament open to the public since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But that all disappeared down the stretch as 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. “I played not so good today with a few of the bogeys coming in on the back nine, but the fans were unbelievable, hearing the chants and just gives me a reason to play.”
Bautista (AL), Williams (NL) named top relievers
NEW YORK — Baltimore‘s Félix Bautista was a unanimous winner of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and Milwaukee‘s Devin Williams won the Trevor Hoffman National League honor on Wednesday.
Bautista, a 28-year-old right-hander, was 8-2 with a 1.48 ERA and 33 saves in 39 chances for the AL East champion Orioles. He made his final appearance on Aug. 25 and had Tommy John surgery on Oct. 9, which likely will cause him to miss the 2024 season.
Williams, a 29-year-old right-hander, was 8-3 with a 1.53 ERA and 36 saves in 40 opportunities for the NL Central champion Brewers. Williams also won the award in 2020 and joined former teammate Josh Hader, Edwin Díaz, Liam Hendriks, Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel as the only multiple winners of the honor, known as the Delivery Man of the Year Award from 2005-13.
Rivera and Hoffman were among the six voters, joined by fellow Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley and Rollie Fingers along with John Franco and Billy Wagner. Balloting was based on the regular season and used a system in which the first choice got five points, the second three and the third one.
Sources: Severino to crosstown Mets for $13M
Severino, 29, will join the Mets and a rotation in significant need of help after spending his eight-year career with the New York Yankees.
He struggled this season with a 6.65 ERA, but posted a 3.39 ERA in 638 innings over his previous seven seasons. If Severino thrives, he’ll hit free agency again next year, and he can earn up to $2 million in performance bonuses from the Mets.
Utah St. QB to skip final season for SEAL training
Williams revealed in a radio interview with a Salt Lake City radio station on Monday he intends to skip his final year of collegiate eligibility with the goal of becoming a SEAL officer in 2025.
“I just want to be in a spot where I can protect this great country where we get to play football with the freedom to do that,” Williams told KSL 97.5 FM. “I think this is the best country in the world, so I’d like to keep it that way and protect it as long as I can.”
The junior quarterback plans to take a SEAL qualifying fitness test after the season. It is a rigorous test that features a 500-yard swim, maximum push-ups, pull-ups, and curl-ups done in separate two-minute intervals, and a 1.5-mile run. The individual time for either the swim or the run cannot exceed 12 ½ minutes.
Williams said he embraces the challenge and is eager to follow in the footsteps of parents and grandparents who served in the military before him. Being a SEAL specifically appeals to him because of the chance to be in a team-oriented environment.
“What I love about their ethos and their motto is that no one guy is better than the other,” Williams said. “It takes all of them to complete a mission.”
Williams spent three seasons with Wyoming before entering the transfer portal following the 2021 season. He joined Utah State and has appeared in 16 games for the Aggies over two seasons.
The seldom-used Williams began the season as Utah State’s third-string quarterback but made his first start since 2021 in the Aggies’ regular season finale against New Mexico. He played mostly on special teams during the season, but injuries to Cooper Legas and McCae Hillstead forced Aggies coach Blake Anderson to turn to the former Wyoming transfer to run the offense.
Williams tallied 351 all-purpose yards to help Utah State edge the Lobos 44-41 in double overtime. He accounted for five touchdowns — culminating in a game-winning 13-yard run after retrieving a snap that went behind him — to help the Aggies become bowl eligible for a third consecutive season.
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