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US Women's Open Golf 2021: Yuka Saso Becomes Joint-Youngest Winner in Event History

Jenna CiccotelliCorrespondent IIJune 7, 2021

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

After topping Nasa Hataoka in a playoff at the 2021 U.S. Women's Open on Sunday, Yuka Saso (19 years, 11 months, 17 days) matched Inbee Park as the youngest winner in the history of the event.

At one point, it appeared as though it was Lexi Thompson's tournament to lose, but her lead evaporated, as she shot five over during the course of the final seven holes.

As a result, Thompson didn't even take part in the two-hole aggregate/sudden-death playoff that crowned Saso as the champion at the Olympic Club Lake Course in San Francisco.

The 26-year-old Thompson, who built as much as a five-stroke lead over the competition in the final round, fell apart on the back nine and finished the afternoon with a score of three under.

Meanwhile, Hataoka and Saso remained tied after the two-hole playoff, so it went to sudden death to decide the winner.

Saso birdied on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff to beat Hataoka by a stroke.


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Final Leaderboard

1. Yuka Saso (-4)

2. Nasa Hataoka (-4)

3. Lexi Thompson (-3)

T4. Megan Khang, Shanshan Feng (-2)

6. Angel Yin (E)

T7. Xiyu Lin, Jin Young Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, Brooke Henderson, Inbee Park (+1)

T12. Amy Olson, Jeongeun Lee6 (+2)

Full leaderboard via USGA


Recap

Thompson had a challenger in Saso entering the round, with just a one-stroke lead on the Filipino rising star. But that evaporated quickly as the 19-year-old fell down the leaderboard with a pair of back-to-back double bogeys.

That had her down to a tie for third through six holes, but it hardly seemed like it would matter as Thompson continued her domination.

Thompson had secured a five-stroke lead over the rest of the pack by the time she reached the sixth hole.

Other than a bogey on No. 2—which she made up for with a pair of birdies on Nos. 1 and 3, Thompson played a relatively clean front nine that had her up by four strokes over Shanshan Feng by the time she came around the turn.

Feng climbed up the leaderboard from her fifth-place spot, moving back and forth with a carousel of golfers including Megan Khang, Saso and Angel Yin for the spots behind Thompson.

But that battle began to heat up early on the back nine. Thompson double-bogeyed the No. 11 hole, bringing her lead over the smooth-sailing Feng to just two strokes.

She got a bit of breathing room after Feng bogeyed No. 12, but another bogey for Thompson got her back down within two strokes of an encroaching three-way tie for second place.

In that group were Feng, who had been challenging throughout the morning, and Hataoka and Khang, who were both shooting two under through 15 holes to put some pressure on the leader after entering the day in a tie for sixth.

But Hataoka continued her advance. With a birdie on No. 16, she got within one of Thompson, who bogeyed No. 14—her third extra-stroke hole of the afternoon.

Saso used a birdie on No. 16 to get herself back in contention, two strokes behind Thompson and one behind Hataoka with two left to play, using her earlier rounds to her advantage as she readied to enter the clubhouse.

But Thompson's late bogey on the penultimate hole changed everything, setting up a battle that would go down to the wire—without her.

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