Saso the beneficiary of another Olympic Club meltdown

    Yuka Saso with the US Women's Open trophy

    Strip the double-bogey six on the 11th from Lexi Thompson’s scorecard in the final round of the US Women’s Open and replace it with a par, and she’s the one holding the trophy instead of Yuka Saso.

    Par is something Thompson made all week long on the 11th, so her anguish at missing out on a long overdue second major championship is understandable. It also takes nothing away from the magnitude of the win for the young Filipino, who became the joint youngest-ever winner of the US Women’s Open with Inbee Park at 19 years, 11 months and 17 days.

    The first US Women’s Open on the fabled Lake Course at the Olympic Club ended up like so many of the previous five times the men competed for the national championship there. The 54-hole leader didn’t win any of those, helping the Olympic Club earn the title ‘Graveyard of Champions’. Previous winners Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Payne Stewart, Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell all got caught on the final day at Olympic and were denied their titles.

    Thompson had a five-stroke lead when she walked off the eighth green but she squandered it all on the back nine. She made a double bogey at 11, a bogey at 14 and then a bogey six on the par-five 17th that was reachable in two shots based on the tee location.

    That left her winless in 15 tries at the US Women’s Open that she first competed in as a 12-year-old in 2007.

    Thompson was unable to add a second major to the one she won at the ANA Inspiration in 2014. It was another final day disappointment to go with the one that happened at that same tournament in 2017 when she was penalised four strokes during the final round for misplacing her marked ball the previous day and lost in a play-off.

    “It’s hard to smile, but it was an amazing week,” Thompson said.

    There were no such problems for Saso. She modelled her golf game after Rory McIlroy, spending hours watching videos of his swing before going to bed each night in order to perfect her own. All that work paid off and now she is a US Open champion just like her idol thanks to a clutch play-off putt. Saso’s 10-foot putt for birdie on the third play-off hole helped her edge out Nasa Hataoka of Japan.

    The sole remaining South African in the field after the 36-hole cut was Lee-Anne Pace. Like so many, she was beaten down by the course. She made two doubles, four bogeys and a single birdie in her final round of seven-over 78. Her tournament total of 18-over featured a wonderful second round of level-par 71, but it left her in a share of 64th.

    The US Open – men’s and women’s – have a reputation for being the toughest tests in golf. Pace took the test, which is more than most can say.

    So did Thompson.