UK Open: Ashleigh Buhai wins after playoff

MUIRFIELD, Scotland –

After falling from her five-shot lead in the final round, Ashleigh Buhai still managed to win her first major title at the British Women’s Open.

Buhai kept his cool to beat In Gee Chun – and the sun set – in the playoffs at Muirfield on Sunday to claim his first career win in an LPGA Tour event.

As the light faded, the South African golfer hit a great bunker shot on the fourth playoff hole to leave himself with a short par putt, while Chun tackled a bogey.

Buhai, 33, calmly rolled in from less than three meters and clutched her face to breathe a sigh of relief, before being drenched in water and other drinks by her entourage.

“I was surprisingly calm,” Buhai said of the clutch bunker shot that secured the win. “My campaigner told me in the last sentence, I don’t want to brag, but she said ‘Show them why you’re number 1 in the bunker this year.’ So, you know, she gave me confidence. Maybe it had to do with the Muirfields and the South Africans and the bunker shots.”

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., finished five strokes over the lead in the tied group in seventh.

Ernie Els also won the men’s British Open championship in the playoffs at Muirfield in 2002 after a memorable bunker hit in the final round. It was the first time the British Women’s Open was held at Muirfield, a club that didn’t even allow female members until 2019 after a vote two years earlier.

However, Buhai made things a lot more difficult.

She entered the final round with a commanding five-shot lead and still had a three-to-three lead at par-4 at 15, putting her level with Chun.

Both players missed long birdies on the 18th as they settled the playoffs after finishing 10 under 274.

“I know a lot of people in South Africa with a lot of gray hair right after that 15th hole,” Buhai said. “But I’m very proud of myself, the way I dug deep and kept myself in it to get into that playoff.”

Buhai shot 4 of 75 in the final round, while Chun scored 70.

Japan’s Hinako Shibuno, the 2019 champion, finished a third leg after missing a chip from just outside the green zone that should have turned into a three-stage playoff.

Chun struggled on the first two playoff holes, but her short play protected her both times.

On the first, Chun lands a second hit on a bunker while Buhai finds the heart of the green. But the Korean player unleashed a near-perfect bunker shot within feet of the hole to save the score.

On the second turn, she needed to make an 8-foot magic hit to stay in it after the second shot went wide and then nearly failed to do it with a chip from the tall grass. .

Buhai narrowly won it on the third playoff hole, but her long putt to win pulled up a few inches from the hole.

For Buhai, the win more than made up for a near miss at the 2019 British Open Women’s Championship, when she led the event in the midfield at Woburn but finished fifth.

“Forgive me, there will be a few tears,” Buhai said during the trophy ceremony. “Obviously a lot of hard work and years of dedication goes into this.”

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