It’s one thing to drool over videos of Rory McIlroy’s swing for hours on end, quite another to replicate it to an uncanny extent.
At the US Women’s Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco on Sunday, Philippine teen Yuka Saso took her Rory impression to a whole other level by winning the biggest event in the women’s game. Ten years after the Northern Irishman won the men’s edition at age 22, she even surpassed that stellar feat by lifting the trophy at age 19.
Rather eerily, at 19 years, 11 months and 17 days to be exact, she was the same age – to the exact day – as Korea’s Inbee Park when she became the youngest champion in 2008.
Yuka Saso celebrates with the trophy after winning the US Women’s Open on Sunday
“It’s very flattering,” McIlroy said last Friday when asked about Saso’s idolatry. It’s even more flattering now that she’s the champion.
“Go get that trophy,” he had posted Sunday morning—which is exactly what she did, despite a gruesome start with two double bogeys in her first three holes.
Beside her, American Lexi Thompson had taken five strokes away, but Saso could smell blood after her playing partner made a double bogey on the 11th to start a sad collapse. In the end, it was Nasa Hataoka of Japan who took her to a playoff, but Saso had the last word and nervously slid from 10 feet high for a birdie on the third extra hole.
Saso and McIlroy hope to meet at the Tokyo Olympics, where golf may be one of the few sports where the athletes are warmly welcomed.
The 19-year-old’s victory made her the first Filipino player to win a major
Despite her young age, Saso was already big in Japan before this victory. With a Japanese father – Saso’s mother is Filipino – her success is the perfect sequel to Hideki Matsuyama’s Masters win. It continues the dominance of the American women’s majors by players from Asia. Nine of the last 10 have been claimed, and with the final two winners with a combined age of 40 – 21-year-old Patty Tavatanakit of Thailand won the ANA Inspiration in April – it’s clear that the next generation of champions is already here.
As for Europe, Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew had hoped for some tips for her team in September, but got none. Mel Reid of Derby raised hopes with her first lap 67 but dropped out, leaving France’s Celine Herbin as the best placed European in 14th place.
The fact that the next best was an amateur – Swede Maja Stark – spoke volumes.
The biggest European influence on the US Open ended up being a man playing 2,000 miles away in Ohio. Maybe Rory Yuka will watch Saso videos to remind him how he used to play.
Saso defeated Japan’s Nasa Hataoka on the third hole of a ‘sudden death’ playoff in San Francisco
The Saudis may have gone silent on their idea of a golf Super League, but the power brokers behind another breakout proposal, the Premier Golf League, are about to go public on Monday with the launch of a website featuring details of their plans.
They aim to finalize negotiations with the players in the summer and launch a global tour in January 2023. It won’t surprise you that quite a bit of money is involved. Can they convince the stars to join?
What a time to be an elite golfer. Really, it’s a license to print money.
Armitage pulls off fairytale confrontation
Two Englishmen who had played 246 European Tour events together without a win took part in the Porsche European Open in Hamburg on Sunday.
On the one hand Matthew Southgate, 32, from Southend, playing in his 177th tournament, having made such a heartwarming recovery from testicular cancer in 2015.
On the other hand, Marcus Armitage, 33, from Salford, who was struggling financially a year and a half ago that fellow pro Robert Rock lent him the plane ticket to play in South Africa.
Marcus Armitage from England poses with the trophy after winning The Porsche European Open
If you could choose between these two admirable pros who you wanted to continue the fairytale tour, after Richard Bland’s win last month, you were a better man than me. Finally, it was Armitage’s time. He hit a 100-yard wedge shot in seventh en route to the best round of the day with three clear strikes. Poor Southgate had to birdie on the par five 18th to force a playoff. Instead, the man who’d been running the driving accuracy stats all week hooked one horribly into a water hazard.
Like Bland before him, Armitage’s interview afterwards illustrated that wins really are priceless. He remembered his mother, who died when he was 13. “Since then, every day I dream of winning a title,” he said through a veil of tears.
“I have a great team around me, but deep down this is for me. I’m not saying I’m different. I know we all have hard times. But this one is for me, to plow through the lonely days.’