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Yuka Saso wins U.S. Women’s Open as Minjee Lee collapses on back 9

Yuka Saso became a U.S. Women’s Open champion for the second time Sunday and took her place in history with a rare footnote — the first Filipino to win the Women’s Open in 2021, and now the first from Japan to win women’s golf’ biggest event.

No matter the flag, the 22-year-old Saso delivered a masterful performance at Lancaster Country Club with a 2-under 68. She ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine amid a series of collapses and won without much drama.

Saso got up-and-down for par from short of the 18th green to finish at 4-under 276, winning by three shots over Hinako Shibuno, who in 2019 became the first Japanese player to capture the Women’s British Open.

They were the only two players under par, the fewest for the Women’s Open in 10 years. Saso’s only other LPGA Tour victory was the Women’s Open at Olympic Club in 2021. She also has two titles on the Japan LPGA.

Andrea Lee, part of a three-way tie for the lead at the start of this wild day, was the last player who had a chance to catch Saso. But the Stanford alum, a former No. 1 amateur, badly missed her tee shot on the easy 16th and had to settle for par, then took bogey on the 17th. Lee took one last bogey on the 18th for a 75 to tie for third with Ally Ewing (66).

WATCH: Saso wins her 2nd U.S. Women’s Open:

Japan’s Yuka Saso wins 2nd US Open title

The 22-year-old shot a 68 in her final round to finish -4 and claim her second career US Open crown.

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Saso has said she wishes she could play for two flags — her mother is from the Philippines, her father from Japan. She decided to switch citizenship before turning 21, and Saso wound up leading a strong showing by Japan — five players among the top 10.

“Winning in 2021, I represented the Philippines. I feel like I was able to give back to my mom,” Saso said at the trophy presentation. “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.”

Saso won $2.4 million from the $12 million purse, the largest in women’s golf and in women’s sports at a standalone venue.

The victory also put Saso in position to return to the Olympics — she played for the Philippines in 2021 in the Tokyo Games.

As much as Saso shined, Sunday was filled with meltdowns. The final two groups combined to go 22-over par, none more shocking than Minjee Lee.

Minjee Lee, a two-time major champion who captured the Women’s Open at Pine Needles two years ago, led by three shots on the front nine. She still had control until putting her tee shot into the water on the par-3 12th and took double bogey to fall into a tie with Saso.

She hit into waist-high grass two holes later for another double bogey and closed with a 78.

“I started good,” she said, reaching 6 under with a birdie on the first hole. “Just missed a couple putts for birdie early and then I kind of blew up from there.”

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