Jun 7th, 2021
Heartbreak for Lexi at Olympic
As Yuka Saso wins U.S. Women’s Open in a playoff
Words: GolfPunk Photography: USGA
For Lexi Thompson, it will be no comfort that she joins a list of great men's champions, including Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Jim Furyk and Payne Stewart as who had just come up short when victory was in their grasp.
Thompson, who led going into Sunday, was five strokes clear of the pack as she walked off the 8th green. The wheels then came off as she proceeded to drop five shots in the final ten holes, including bogies at the 17th and 18th.
The 26-year-old from Florida shot a final-round 75 to miss out on a playoff with Yuka Saso and Nasa Hataoka by one stroke.
Saso and Hataoka who finished on 280, four-under-par, went into a sudden-death playoff after they could not be separated in the two-hole aggregate playoff.
Saso held her nerve to hole from twelve feet for birdie at the first sudden-death hole, the 9th and take the title.
At 19 years, 11 months, 17 days old, Saso joined seven-time major winner Inbee Park as the youngest champion in U.S. Women's Open history – to the day.
Saso also became the first woman from the Philippines to have her name carved on the Harton S. Semple Trophy.
"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," said Saso.
"I don't know how to thank them. They gave me so much energy. I want to say thank you to everyone."
Saso looked like she was out of the event after taking a double-bogey at both the 2nd and 3rd holes. She was five back from Thompson at the turn but battled her way back into contention as Thompson faltered.
Hataoka was even further back from the leader and when she bogeyed the 11th, she was seven shots adrift. After that, she slowly chipped away at Thompson's lead with consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th, and another on the par five 16th.
"On the first [major-championship] playoff I had to wait over an hour, so I was kind of excited," said Hataoka who has now lost out in two major playoffs, the last being the 2018 KPMG Women's PGA Championship.
"It got me all excited and uptight. But this one since it was right away, I decided I would just be relaxed, then just keep doing what I'm supposed to be doing, and this was the result."
Lexi Thompson looked in total control through ten holes but her troubles began on the 11th with a double bogey. Her Achilles heel, the putter, then ran cold and she started to miss fairways.
With two holes to play, Lexi still looked favourite as she had the reachable par five 17th to come and a shot one lead.
A poor drive into the left rough on the 17th found a horrendous lie and forced Thompson to lay up. Her 122-yard approach from the fairway came up well short of the green. Thompson chose to putt from well off the green leaving herself a tricky six-footer. Sadly the putt never looked like going in and the lead had evaporated.
At the 18th, Thompson again came up short from the middle of the fairway, finding the front bunker. She splashed out to eleven feet beyond her hole but her putt to get into the playoff never looked like reaching the hole.
"That's what this golf course can do to you," said Thompson, who was bidding for her second major title.
"And that's what I've said all week. Overall, I'd be the first one to tell you that I hit some bad golf shots and I deserved it, but it's golf."
Shanshan Feng and Megan Khang finished a further shot back from Thompson in a tie for fourth on two-under and were the only other players to finish under par.
Amateur Megha Ganne, who was still in the hunt on three-under coming into Sunday, struggled in the final round, carding a six-over 77. However, it was an excellent week for the teenager who pipped Maja Stark of Sweden to the best amateur prize by a single shot.