South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai enjoyed a “life-changing” performance after defeating three-time Major winner In Gee Chun in a play-off to win the AIG Women’s Open.
As the light quickly faded at Muirfield, Buhai knocked for par on the fourth extra hole at 9:10 p.m. to seal a nerve-wracking victory after twice giving up seemingly confident leads with a final 75.
Heading into the final round, Buhai still had three holes to go with five shots to go, only to hit a triple bogey seven on the 15th hole after finding sand off the tee and splashing sideways into heavy rough.
That left the 33-year-old level with Chun in the lead, the South Korean then completing a final loop of 70 in the group ahead to take the clubhouse target to 10-under.
After her birdie putt on the par-5 17th caught the edge of the hole and stayed out, Buhai had to hole out on the final hole from four feet to force a playoff after charging her long birdie attempt wide of the hole .
Players returned to the 18th for additional holes and Chun brilliantly saved par from a green bunker to keep their hopes alive, with Buhai making two putts from long range.
Both players missed the green on the second extra hole and hit poor third shots before Chun inexplicably stormed her par putt eight feet from the hole, but the 27-year-old regained her composure to save a bogey after Buhai’s long par attempt fell short.
Despite the fading light and falling temperature, Chun and Buhai both hit excellent shots into the green on the third extra hole, but neither converted.
It was arguable that an additional fifth hole would have been possible if needed, but Buhai finally decided the outcome in style with a brilliant green bunker shot that set up a tap-in par that Chun – who had found sand on the tee – could not match.
“I’m so proud of myself for fighting my way into the playoffs,” said Buhai, who won a major title at Muirfield alongside compatriots Gary Player (1959) and Ernie Els (2002).
“It’s so hard to put into words at the moment. It may not hit me for a few days, but of course I’m very proud.
“We’re a very small country so to produce some Major champions is quite a deal and now that I’m a South African Major winner I have no words – it’s life changing.”
Former champion Hinako Shibuno finished a shot outside the playoff after a final round of 71, while Ireland’s Leona Maguire was two shots down in fourth place alongside Madelene Sagstrom and Minjee Lee.
Maguire, who secured her best-ever finish in a Major thanks to an eagle and three birdies in a clean finish 66, said: “(I’m) really pleased.
“I don’t think I could have played much better today. Had there been a few chances it would have been nice to hole a few more putts but it was tough out there and definitely my best golf of the week so far.
“Any time you bogey-free under par in the last round of a Major you’re happy, so it’s a nice swing for next week (the ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland).”
A final 69 gave Scot Louise Duncan a share of 19th place and her first check as a pro, 12 months after failing to claim £80,000 in prize money for a tie in 10th place as an amateur at Carnoustie.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/golf/muirfield-south-african-hinako-shibuno-gary-player-south-korean-b2140304.html ‘It’s life changing:’ Ashleigh Buhai enjoys dramatic victory at Women’s Open