Yuka Saso was able to watch her match in the morning after winning the US Open Women’s Championship in San Francisco.
“I was watching my shot at number 2, I don’t know how I did that,” she told reporters via an online video chat Monday night. “I had excellent bunker shooting at 17, very good shooting at 16 as well. My putter worked for the last five or six holes. I think that made my day.
It’s as far as she usually goes when reviewing past performances.
“Looking back, I don’t think it helps me,” she said, of San Francisco, where she made history as the first Filipino – male or female – to win a major. of golf. “I must continue to look to the future and take [things] day by day.”
But her performance at the towering Lake Course of Olympic Club surely made her career look back inescapable, as the 19-year-old champion displayed nerves of steel in a scintillating retaliation that ended in a tense victory. in the playoffs to sudden death. .
Because she had done this before. She lost two shots in the last hole to Chinese amateur star Liu Wenbo in 2018 before claiming gold at the Asian Games with a brilliant eagle.
And if ever there was a perfectly constructed stage for a comeback win, it was Lake Course, which had hosted five previous men’s US Opens – and all winners had to stage some sort of rally to win.
According to the New York Times, Webb Simpson won in 2012 after rallying four moves. Lee Janzen won after overcoming a five-stroke deficit in 1998. Scott Simpson trailed by one stroke before winning the 1987 trophy.
A closer look at the history of the US Open turned out to be even more revealing.
Billy Casper, behind Arnold Palmer by three points after the third round, lost four more strokes at the turn of the final round before swallowing up that seven-stroke deficit and winning via a playoff in 1966. And in 1955, the first time that The Olympic club hosted at the US Open, Jack Fleck shot a final round of 67 to come back from a three-shot, 54-hole deficit and piped Ben Hogan into the playoffs.
So when Saso followed American Lexi Thompson by five, entering her last nine holes, history was certainly on Saso’s side, although it didn’t put too much emphasis on the past.
While she had to manage her nerves, Saso stayed on top of the pressure by staying in the moment.
“I was nervous,” she said in Filipino. “I am not numb. I just trusted the process and it worked.
“The nervousness will come,” Saso added. “But the pressure, you can control. So I think I controlled that well.
She controlled the pressure well enough that she didn’t need to dampen the noise, especially in the playoffs. Instead, she embraced the enthusiasm of the fans waving flags.
“They gave me a lot of energy and I’m grateful for it,” Saso said. Fans were predominantly Filipino, but Saso, the 2020 Inquirer Female Athlete of the Year, is proud of her Japanese roots as well.
“I actually think [I’m representing] the Philippines and that won’t change, ”said Saso, whose father is Japanese. “Whatever happens in the future, I’m still Filipino and I’m Japanese too. I am both. But I love both countries.
His victory put the Tokyo Olympics squarely in his sights. But Saso is not aiming yet.
“I don’t want to rush things; I just want to focus on the moment, ”she said, adding that winning a golf major doesn’t equal Olympic success.
She will face the challenges ahead the same way she handled every shot at Lake Course.
“With every stroke or putt I hit, I was never really confident. I just want to take it shot by shot, focusing on what I have to do.
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