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Yuka Saso Wins US Women's Open for the 2nd Time

After entering the final round three strokes off the pace, Yuka Saso, 22, finished strong to become the youngest player to win the US Women's Open twice.

Yuka Saso found her shooting rhythm during a pivotal stretch of the US Women's Open final round.

Saso sank birdies on the 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th holes on Sunday, June 2 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. With a birdie on the par-3 12th hole, Saso grabbed a share of the lead at Lancaster Country Club.

The Philippine-born golfer pulled away for a three-stroke victory, completing the fourth round at 2-under 68. Her total score in the four-day event: 4-under 276.

Japanese compatriot Hinako "Smiling Cinderella" Shibuno, winner of the 2019 Women's British Open, was the runner-up, three shots off the pace at 1-under 279. Shibuno shot a 2-over 72 in the final round.

With another birdie, on the par-5 13th hole, Saso took the lead for good.

Saso became the 16th player to win multiple US Women's Open titles, the first since South Korea's Inbee Park accomplished the feat in 2013.

Yuka Saso
Two-time US Women's Open winner Yuka Saso began the final round three shots off the pace. (GETTY IMAGES/via KYODO)

Moreover, Saso is the youngest two-time winner of the LPGA Tour major at 22 years, 347 days. The previous youngest? Hollis Stacy (24 years, 129 days), who claimed back-to-back titles in 1977 and '78.

Saso, whose mother is Filipino and whose father is Japanese, won her first US Women's Open in June 2021 in San Francisco, defeating Nasa Hataoka in a three-hole playoff.

American Ally Ewing, who had the best score in the final round (4-under 66), tied for third with fellow Andrea Lee at even-par 280.

Ayaka Furue finished in a three-way tie for sixth at 2-over 282. Also for Japan, Rio Takeda and Sakura Kowai, among the top players on the JLPGA Tour, carded 3-over 283s and were among three players tied for ninth.

Yuka Saso
Yuka Saso hits a tee shot on the 17th hole in the final round. (AP/via KYODO)

Yuka Saso Perseveres to Win Again

After winning this tournament in 2021, Saso recorded 15 top-10 finishes in LPGA Tour events before finally winning again on Sunday. In 2023, for instance, she made the cut in 17 of 22 tournaments and had eight top-10 finishes, including runner-up in the Women's PGA Championship.

While summing up her emotions on Sunday, Saso spoke about the long victory drought she experienced after her first LPGA Tour title.

"I think I really wanted it," Saso told reporters. "Not just to get a second win but also to prove something to myself. 

"Since 2021, I haven't won after that. I think it makes it special because after a long wait I wasn't expecting to win the US Women's Open. The last time, too, I wasn't expecting it, and this time, too, I wasn't expecting it. I think that's why it made me a bit emotional.

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

Yuka Saso
Yuka Saso attends a news conference after winning her second US Women's Open title. (KYODO)

What was the key to victory for Saso?

"I just try to be very patient out there," she said during her news conference, "[and] I think that's what you need to win a major like this. Just have fun playing with the playing partners and enjoy the challenge."

Yuka Saso
Yuka Saso putts on the 14th hole in the final round. (GETTY IMAGES/via KYODO)

Contending for the US Women's Open Title

Entering the last round, Australia's Minjee Lee, Thailand's Wichanee Meechai and the United States' Andrea Lee shared the lead at 5-under 205. Shibuno was two strokes adrift, followed by Saso, one shot behind her.

To wrap up the third round, Saso had a bogey on the 18th hole. Looking ahead, she expressed laser-sharp focus about her plans for the final round. 

"It'll be important to stay focused on the present rather than any future outcome," Saso was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. "I'll concentrate on each shot and hope a chance to win comes my way."

After placing tied for 20th at the 2023 US Women's Open, Saso began her quest for a second title in the marquee event with a 2-under 68 in the opening round on Thursday, May 30, followed by a 71 and a 69.

Overall consistency was a hallmark of her success in the 2024 US Women's Open.

"I think I played pretty stable, [but] I made double bogey on 6, though," Saso told reporters, referring to the fourth round, before adding, "I think that happens every time."

Saso then said, "I think that happened to me in 2021, I think that double is good luck."

She earned a winner's paycheck of $2.4 million USD (¥376 million JPY).

Yuka Saso
Yuka Saso (GETTY IMAGES/via KYODO)

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For Yuka Saso, a Joyful Experience

Once again, Saso dedicated her US Women's Open victory to her family.

"It feels great," Saso declared. "I think winning in 2021 I represented the Philippines, [and] I feel like I was able to give back to my mom. 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.

"It's just a wonderful feeling that I was able to give back to my parents in the same way."

Yuka Saso
US Women's Open champion Yuka Saso holds the winner's trophy with her father, Masakazu Saso, on June 2 at Lancaster Country Club. (KYODO)

Saso competed for the Philippines at the COVID-19 pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021. She was tied for ninth at the Olympic tournament.

After Tokyo 2020, Saso switched her nationality to Japanese. She is expected to compete for Japan at the Paris Games.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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