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Saso wins Women's US Open as Aussie Minjee Lee crumbles

3 minute read

Japanese golfer Yuka Saso has scored a three-shot victory at the US Women's Open after Australian star Minjee Lee suffered a dramatic final-round collapse.

Minjee Lee.
Minjee Lee. Picture: Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

A shattered Minjee Lee is vowing to bounce back after enduring a dramatic collapse to allow Japanese star Yuka Saso to storm to Women's US Open glory in Pennsylvania.

After starting the final round in a three-way share of the lead, then surging three shots clear, Lee closed with a shocking eight-over 78 as Saso (68) produced a late birdie blitz to romp to a historic three-stroke triumph at Lancaster Country Club.

Saso finished with a four-under-par total of 276, with compatriot Hinako Shibuno (72) runner-up and completing the first-ever Japanese quinella at a major - men's or women's.

Americans Andrea Lee (75) and Ally Ewing (66) shared third at even par for the championship.

After taking a two-shot lead into the back nine, Lee eventually wound up in a tie for ninth at three over.

The 27-year-old's hopes of joining Australian golf royalty with a third career major championship essentially perished in a crushing 15-minute stretch mid round.

Even after racking up a third bogey of the day on the ninth, Lee headed to the back nine two shots in front.

But a sloppy three-putt bogey on the 10th precipitated a shocking meltdown.

Lee dunked her tee shot into the water en route to a double-bogey five on the devilish par-3 12th that brought world No.1 Nelly Korda unstuck on Thursday.

With Saso, playing in the penultimate group behind Lee, posting birdies on 12 and 13, the tournament suddenly turned on a five-shot swing.

From two behind, where she started on Sunday, Saso was three in front of Lee and the rest of the chasing pack.

Another double-bogey from Lee on No.14 ended all hope of the West Australian joining the great Karrie Webb as a dual US Open champion.

"I started good. Felt like I hit it pretty good; just missed a couple putts for birdie early and then I kind of blew up from there," Lee lamented.

A commanding four-shot winner two years at Pine Needles, Lee now must pick up the pieces from Sunday's wreckage ahead of the season's last three major championships and Paris Olympics all coming in the next two months.

"I did a lot of good things but obviously didn't play very well today and I'm disappointed that I didn't do better," she said.

"Obviously I'm going to acknowledge my disappointment and then come back stronger, take the positives out of the week.

"It's a lot of pressure on the last day, so it wasn't my best performance but I'm sure there will be many better performances ahead."

In stark contrast, Lee's Games teammate Hannah Green finished with a flurry to share 16th at five over following a final-round 66, the equal low round of the week.

But the spoils - and women's golf's biggest winner's cheque for $US2.4 million ($A3.6 million) - belong to Saso, who herself became a two-time US Open champion.

The Filipino-born star also won in 2021 at the famed Olympic Club in San Francisco.

At 22 years, 11 months and 13 days, Saso is the youngest player in history to win two Women's US Open crowns - and the first ever to land two majors representing different nations.

"It feels great," an emotional Saso said.

"Winning in 2021 representing the Philippines, I feel like I was able to give back to my mum.

"And this year I was able to represent Japan and I think I was able to give back to my dad.

"So 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."

Saso's latest triumph looked most unlikely after she four-putted for double bogey on the sixth to slip four strikes adrift of Lee.

But then, seemingly in the blink of an eye, everything changed as Lee, striving to join Webb, Jan Stephenson and Peter Thomson as only the fourth Australian to win more than two majors, completely unravelled down the stretch.

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