Saso’s U.S. Women’s Open Win: 2nd Major Title Proves Her Strength

Professional golfer Yuka Saso showed her overwhelming strength by conquering difficult courses where her rivals were losing momentum one after another. Her amazing accomplishment of becoming the first Japanese golfer to win an overseas major championship two times deserves a round of applause.

Saso won the U.S. Women’s Open championship for the second time since 2021. Saso, who started the final day in fifth place, was three shots behind the tournament leader, but made five birdies and finished 4 under par in a come-from-behind victory.

The difficult course setting, which is typical of major championships, caused the scores of the players on the leaderboard to fall apart. Saso, however, played tenaciously with her strengths of long distance and skillful shots and seized the opportunity without fail.

In the world of sports, it is said that winning one’s second championship is more difficult than winning one’s first. This is probably because players know how difficult it is to win and are in a position to be chased by their rivals as a target. It can be said that Saso’s victory this time proved her true strength.

Saso, who has a Japanese father and a Filipino mother, started playing golf at the age of 8. Working closely with her father as a coach, Saso trained hard to compete on the global stage. She wore weights on both legs to strengthen her lower body while training.

When Saso won the U.S. Open for the first time at the age of 19 years and 11 months, a tie for the youngest to win the tournament, she had dual citizenship. Soon after that, she represented the Philippines in the Tokyo Olympics. She later chose to become solely a Japanese citizen.

After winning the championship this time, Saso said: “When winning the title in 2021, I feel I could return a favor to my mother. This time, it was a reward to my father. I’m happy that I was able to repay my parents each in the same way.” Her parents must be particularly delighted to receive such an amazing gift.

Japanese players’ performance at this year’s tournament was outstanding, and it is noteworthy that as many as five Japanese players finished in the top 10.

Especially impressive was the comeback of second-place finisher Hinako Shibuno. Although she won the Women’s British Open championship in 2019, in recent years she had been failing to get through qualifying rounds in major tournaments due to her sluggish performance. For that reason, her performance this time was promising for the future.

In the world of Japanese women’s professional golf, young players are making remarkable strides. The “golden generation” players born in fiscal 1998 and the “platinum generation” and the “new century generation” players, who were born after the golden generation, are competing against one another.

Many of them started playing golf because of their admiration for Ai Miyazato, who played well in Japan and the United States. The Japan Ladies Professional Golfers’ Association has been promoting reforms, such as increasing the number of four-day tournaments, to nurture players to compete on the world stage.

In the future, it may not be unusual to see Japanese players competing to win in major tournaments overseas. If this happens, the Japanese women’s golf world will attract even more attention. It is hoped that the association will put even more effort into improving fan services and broaden the reach of the sport.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 4, 2024)