Yuka Saso rallies to win second U.S. Women’s Open

June 3, 2024 - 10:57 AM
Jun 2, 2024; Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA; Yuka Saso (JPN) poses with the championship trophy after winning the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament at Lancaster Country Club. (USA Today Sport/ John Jones)

Yuka Saso has brought golfing glory to two different nations.

In 2021, when she won her first major title, it marked the first time a woman from the Philippines won the U.S. Women’s Open. Three years later, Saso has switched her sporting nationality to Japan — she has one parent from each country — and on Sunday became the first player flying the Japanese flag to win the championship.

Saso shot a 2-under 68 in her final round to capture her second U.S. Women’s Open on Sunday at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club.

“I think winning in 2021, I represented the Philippines (and) I feel like I was able to give back to my mom,” Saso said at her trophy presentation. “This year, I was able to represent Japan, and I think I was able to give back to my dad. I’m very happy that I was able to do it.”

Saso was one of just two players to finish the week under par. She started the day three off the pace but used four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to separate from the pack and shoot 4-under 276 for a three-stroke victory.

Saso, 22, experienced a three-year drought of wins of any kind, major or not, since her first U.S. Women’s Open.

“I think it just makes it special because after a long wait, and I wasn’t expecting to win the U.S. Women’s Open, every time I — last time, too, I wasn’t expecting it, and this time, too, I wasn’t expecting it,” Saso said. “I think that’s why it made me a bit emotional.

“Winning just makes you look back in all the things that your family and your team and my sponsors, they supported me throughout good or bad.”

The three 54-hole co-leaders were Minjee Lee of Australia, Andrea Lee and Wichanee Meechai of Thailand at 5 under par. All three dropped down the leaderboard as they battled the difficult scoring conditions.

Saso swept in a 20-foot birdie putt at the second hole before her biggest hiccup, a four-putt double bogey at the par-3 sixth. She trailed Minjee Lee by two when she reached the par-3 12th and made the first of two consecutive birdies.

After another birdie at No. 15 gave her a two-shot cushion, Saso drove the green at the 232-yard par-4 16th and two-putted for birdie. She saved bogey from 3 1/2 feet at No. 17 before hitting a chip onto the 18th green that finished less than 2 feet away to set up a clinching par.

“I chipped from the front yesterday, too, and I left it more than 10 feet,” Saso said, “and I just told myself, be aggressive and not to be short 10 feet, and I’m glad that I was able to do it.”

Hinako Shibuno shot a 72 on Sunday to make it a 1-2 finish for Japan, finishing the week 1 under.

Andrea Lee bogeyed her final two holes to shoot 75 and fell to a tie for third at even par.

“It was tough out there,” said the 25-year-old Californian, who made a double bogey, four bogeys and one birdie Sunday. “Obviously didn’t have my best right from the start. I was pretty nervous, but yeah, just didn’t have great shots out there. I had a couple of drives that really cost me, especially the double on 4.”

Ally Ewing joined Andrea Lee in third place as she tied the round of the day with a bogey-free 66. Thailand’s Arpichaya Yubol posted 69 to take fifth at 1 over.

Meechai, who shot in the 60s for three straight days, posted a 77 to drop to 2 over and a tie for sixth with Ayaka Furue of Japan (68) and Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand (68). Minjee Lee (78) was tied for ninth at 3 over.

—Field Level Media