Sports

Fil-Japanese Yuka Saso wins 2nd US Women’s Open, surges to World No. 6, grabs Olympic spot

SAN FRANCISCO/MANILA — Remember the Bulacan-born Yuka Saso who captured the US Women’s Open trophy in San Francisco as a 19-year-old Filipino golfer in 2021?

Saso, now 22, whose mother is a Filipina but who has since turned Japanese after her father’s nationality, won the US Open again in Pennsylvania last week,  catapulting her to No. 6 from no. 30 in world rankings. She netted the biggest prize of $2.4 million.

The victory not only marked her ascent in the rankings but also all but secured a coveted spot in the upcoming Paris Olympics.

Saso’s impressive 24-spot leap in the rankings also saw her rise from fourth to first among the Japanese contenders for the Olympic team. Tied with World No. 1 Nelly Korda in the prestigious Rolex ANNIKA Major Award derby, Saso’s second major triumph underscores her hard work, dedication and patience.

In stark contrast to her first major win at the Olympic Golf Club in San Francisco in 2021, her latest victory was a well-crafted comeback. It’s a testament to her perseverance and growth as a player, Philippine Star reported.

Reclaiming her career-best world ranking at No. 6, Saso has surpassed notable competitors like Nasa Hataoka, Miyu Yamashita and Ayaka Furue for the top Olympic bid from Japan.

From uncertain prospects of a second Olympic appearance to a guaranteed spot, Saso’s journey has been remarkable. With only four tournaments, including the US Women’s Open, left before the qualification period for the 60-player Olympic field concludes on June 24, Saso was determined to secure her berth in the Paris Games.

“My focus is on the US Women’s Open first,” she said, and she delivered, mirroring her previous major win with a strong finishing kick.

Overcoming a double bogey on No. 6 on the sixth hole and a four-stroke deficit, Saso fired four birdies over the next five holes from No. 12, ultimately winning by three strokes over fellow Japanese Hinako Shibuno.

Her latest victory not only brought her $2.4 million, the largest purse in women’s golf at a stand-alone event, but also made her the youngest two-time champion in the YS Women’s Open history at 22 years and 347 days.

Back on the Olympic track, Saso is virtually assured of her second Olympic stint. Determined to maintain or improve her ranking, she is set to compete in the ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey this week and the Meijer LPGA Classic in Michigan the following week.

She is also eyeing a third major win at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Washington later this month.

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