Women’s Open golf: Buhai beats Chun in dramatic playoff – as it happened | Women's Open | The Guardian

2022-08-08 22:54:14 By : Ms. Dragon Zhang

Ashleigh Buhai won her first major at Muirfield after an epic play-off with Chun In-gee Official leaderboard

Ashleigh Buhai, the 2022 Women’s Open champion, goes off to celebrate with caddy Tanya and husband David, delirious and delighted all. The tears flowing, the champagne corks popping. Beautiful scenes, but then this is the Firth of Forth, you’d expect nothing less. Congratulations to Buhai, commiserations to runner-up Chun In-gee, and thanks for reading this blog. See you in Texas next year for the Chevron? Hope so. Nighty night!

-10: Ashleigh Buhai, Chun In-gee (Buhai won at the fourth play-off hole) -9: Hinako Shibuno -7: Leona Maguire, Minjee Lee, Madelene Sagstrom -5: Celine Boutier, Naza Hataoka, Lydia Ko, Atthaya Thitikul, Brooke Henderson, Steph Kyriacou

After winning her first major – indeed her first title on tour – Buhai speaks! “I know there are a lot of people in South African with a lot of grey hairs right now, after that 15th hole! But I was very proud of the way I dug deep to keep myself together and get into the play-off. I was surprisingly calm. I just tried to stay in the moment. My caddy said, show them why you’re number one in bunkers. Maybe it’s something to do with South Africans here in bunkers! It’s a good stomping ground for us. It might only hit me in a few days. For me to be a female South African major winner, I have no words, it’s life changing!”

The speeches. David Meacher, the chairman of the Open Championships Committee, makes sure to thank “Muirfield and all its club members”, presumably for finally realising that it wasn’t the 19th century any more. Lucky for them they did, huh, as otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to watch these sensational women do their thing at close quarters. What a tournament this has been. Then the Smyth Salver is awarded to the low amateur Rose Zhang. And finally the winner of the gold medal and 2022 Women’s Open champion, Ashleigh Buhai, wipes away a happy tear before coming up to claim her trophy. What scenes, albeit under cover of darkness!

Buhai is all smiles, as you’d imagine, but her expression seems to be more of relief and mellow exhaustion than pure joy. And no wonder: she’s had to work so hard for her win! Four holes of top-drawer play-off drama, in which she played all the shots to see off the reigning PGA champion. What a sand shot at 18 to seal the deal! And what a response to that triple-bogey debacle on 15, which would have seen lesser talents crumble. Buhai is the thoroughly deserved winner of this great championship; Chun In-gee its heroic runner-up.

Buhai taps in for her par, and it’s not long before she’s showered with champagne. Another South African winner at Muirfield! Gary Player, Ernie Els, Ahsleigh Buhai! Not bad company to keep, huh ... and you know Player and Els will be delighted to welcome the brilliant Buhai to their elite club!

Chun taps in for her bogey five, scrunches her nose in sadness, then smiles ruefully. Another year for the three-time major winner, then. But it’s not going to be enough, because...

Not for the first time today, but almost certainly the last, Chun In-gee leaves her putt short. Barring a preposterous mishap, the 2022 Women’s Open champion will be South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai!

Buhai needs to get up and over the grassy island in the middle of the trap ... and she plays one of the shots of her life! She gracefully whips her ball high out of the trap and into the heart of the green, the ball releasing and rolling to 18 inches or so! She’ll be making her par for sure, and now Chun has to make her putt from 15 feet ... maybe 20 ... to save herself!

“Aw Ashleigh.” Buhai berates herself as she shoves her approach wide right. Her ball dunks in the bunker, but thankfully for the South African doesn’t plug. There’s still work to do, though that could have been very nasty.

We’re an hour into this play-off, give or take a minute here and there. Chun, from 195 yards, needs some hybrid magic. She gets it, too, swishing her third into the green, the ball stopping in almost the same spot from which she woefully misread the second time round. She’ll have a look to save par from 15 feet.

Chun’s only option is to guzzle that medicine and play for position. She’s up against a very steep face. She makes sure of getting out, sacrificing a few extra yards to be certain. She’ll be playing her third, from further out, before Buhai takes her second. This is getting critical for the 27-year-old South Korean.

That might not be necessary, though. Chun becomes the first player to miss the fairway with their drive, sending her tee shot into a bunker down the right. She’s up against the face, and will be forced to chip out. Buhai creams her fourth drive out of four down the middle. Serious advantage to Buhai, though Chun has made a par this week despite driving into this bunker.

This is a quite brilliant play-off. Can’t both players win? Nope. It’s going to be heartbreaking for whoever eventually comes up short. They’re in a race against time, with the sun preparing to bugger off with extreme prejudice. This could be the last hole of the evening. If nothing’s decided on play-off hole number four, we could be coming back tomorrow.

Buhai puts a confident stroke on her birdie effort. It looks all the way like it’s heading in, but just as you prepare for the ball to disappear from view, it turns hard left and stubbornly stays on the lip! So close. So very close to a maiden major for Ashleigh Buhai. Hubby David covers his eyes with the palm of his hand, and may well be contemplating a malt chaser.

So much for my depth perception. In fact, it’s a close call as to who is going first. And in fact it’s Buhai’s ball which is closer, so Chun is up first. She’s got a downhill right-to-left swinger and her slightly tentative effort is always turning away on the left. It’s never reaching, either. But while it should be good enough for par, it gives Buhai her fourth putt for the title. Here goes, then!

Buhai responds by creaming her hybrid pin high. Maybe 30 feet right. Putting competition coming up! Meanwhile her husband David, who has been caddying this week for Jeongeun Lee6, is pictured in the crowd, getting stuck into the pints. Can you blame the poor man?

Chun to go first. Again. But she’s not hitting fairway wood this time. Instead she gives her hybrid a smooth wallop, and having missed right on the first sudden-death hole, and left on the second, she fires this one straight at the flag. It skips 15 feet past, but holds the green, and she’ll have a decent look at birdie! Over to Buhai, who is under some serious pressure now.

... so having said that, Chun hits her longest drive of the play-off so far. Straight down the middle, of course. Buhai’s drive flirts with the bunkers down the left, but stays on the fairway. That one’s not quite as long as her previous efforts, so although Chun will still be hitting first, the dynamic of these approaches has slightly changed.

The third sudden-death play-off hole, then. It’s getting colder, and the 18th will be playing longer and longer. That’s to Buhai’s advantage, who has been hitting her approaches from a much shorter distance than Chun. But good luck guessing how this is going to pan out.

Chun rolls in the slight right-to-left slider for her bogey! She stays alive! You have to wonder if Buhai was unnecessarily tentative and overly careful with that downhill putt for the win. If it doesn’t reach, it isn’t dropping, and she took that possibility out of the equation. What a putt by Chun, though! My word, that took some nerve, especially after the awful stroke beforehand. Back we go again!

Buhai has a downhill right-to-left swinger from 15 feet. She nearly makes it, too, but it stops a dimple shy, short and right. She taps in. Chun needs to make an eight footer if she’s to force a third play-off hole. You could hear a pin drop. There may be some compensatory noise one way or the other soon.

Chun hits a woefully excitable putt ten feet past the hole! A complete misread of both pace and line! Serious advantage to Buhai now. She’s got another putt to win. Two will be enough if Chun can’t make the bogey putt she’s left herself.

Chun takes too much grass. Her chip only just makes it onto the fringe. She’s very lucky her ball doesn’t topple back down a slope and into the bunker. That’s not quite in Rocca-Lyle territory of disasters, but it’s a flubbed chip at the 18th nonetheless. It’s still her honour.

Buhai’s ball is on an uphill slope. Ever so slightly plugged. She catches a little too much sand, and though the ball squirts onto the green, she’s left with a 20-footer for her par. A chance now for Chun to apply some pressure ... though her ball is hidden in the long rough. This is far from an easy shot.

The players aren’t sure who’s up first here. Over to the referee. He makes his judgement using the time-honoured method of pacing it out. Buhai to go first.

Buhai goes with fairway wood this time. She yelps “Big!” after sending her ball towards the traps on the right of the green. It slaps into the bunker at the back. A little longer and that was in serious trouble. As it is, what’s left it far from ideal ... but probably an easier shot than the one facing Chun.

Chun takes her fairway wood again. This time she hits straight, but the right-to-left wind snatches her ball and dumps it into the long rough to the left-hand side of the green. She’s pin high, but with the rough thick and going against the ball, that’s not going to be an easy shot at all. Door open again for Buhai!

Chun to hit her approach first. She’s 204 yards from the pin. Buhai is in fact 14 yards further up the fairway. With the air colder, the hole is playing longer. A lot of hand rubbing still going on as Chun and her caddy decide what’s what.

It’s an action replay for Buhai, too. She splits the fairway, her ball rolling perhaps 20 yards further on. Both players grip hard on their hand warmers as they walk down the track. The temperature dropping as the night draws in.

Chun and Buhai arrive at the 18th tee box again, to do it all over for the second sudden-death play-off hole. Chun, coming off the back of that world-class up and down, looks relaxed. All smiles. It’s an action replay of her first drive, a gentle draw down the right, the ball ending up smack in the middle of the fairway.

There’s a little right-to-left movement on Chun’s putt. But she’s never missing it. Into the centre of the cup it goes. Buhai follows her in. That’s a nerveless, drama-free par for Buhai; an amazing sandy save by Chun. What drama here! What tension. Back to the tee they chug. They go again.

From 35 feet, Buhai’s birdie effort is always missing on the left. But she’ll surely tidy up what’s left for par from a couple of feet. She pops a coin behind her ball, and the pressure is batted back to Chun, who surely has to make her slightly longer effort.

Chun has a downhill lie in the bunker, and she’s got to get up and over a grassy island in the middle of the trap. She’ll be looking to land this one just a few yards in front of the flag, hoping for the ball to release towards the hole. And she smiles excitedly as she lands her ball 20 feet short and rolling to four feet. A great chance of saving par ... though Buhai will now have a putt for the win.

Buhai squints into the sun. She doesn’t look particularly happy either ... but that’s a wonderful shot, sent sailing into the front of the green. She’ll have a long look at birdie, but given where Chun is, par may be more than enough. Over to Chun, who needs some wedge magic right here.

Chun draws her fairway wood. Disappointment washes across her face as she sends her ball into the bunker guarding the right-hand side of the green. She’ll have work to do from there. The door ajar for Buhai!

Both players reach their balls. A pause. A lot of yardage-book study going on right now.

The tension is palpable as Chun In-gee tees it up. It doesn’t get to the 27-year-old PGA champion, though. She belts one of the drives of the day down the right-hand side of the fairway, drawing it gently back into the centre. Over to Buhai, who responds by smoothly arrowing her tee shot straight down the middle. Both in prime position. Shoot-out coming up from the centre of the fairway. With Buhai maybe 15 yards longer, Chun will have the opportunity to go first, and either crank up the pressure by going close ... or leave the door wide open for her opponent.

The players arrive back at the 18th tee on buggies. They bump fists, ahead of a sudden-death play-off. One hole, played again and again if needs be. Chun will have the honour. Here we go, then!

Buhai seriously threatened to blow it ... but that street-fighting par keeps her Open dreams alive. Chun, as a three-time major winner, goes into the play-off as favourite. Buhai, after the sand-infused farce on 15, will wonder how she’s let it come to this. But while Chun’s final round of 70 compares favourably to Buhai’s 75, neither player can boast any particularly decisive momentum: Chun hasn’t made a birdie since the 6th, Buhai since the 5th. What a time it would be to break those particular runs.

Ashleigh Buhai rolls the putt into the centre of the cup for her par and a place in the play-off! She punches the air, in relief more than celebration. Lovely to see: it would have been too painful to watch her miss a short one on the last after everything that’s happened. Onto a play-off with Chun In-gee, then! Back down the 18th they’ll go!

Ashleigh Buhai lines up her 30-foot putt to win. Up and over a ridge across the middle of the green it goes. It doesn’t break left as she intended, and having been given a good run, sails four feet past. Brave – she went for that birdie and the win – but will it prove costly? She’s forced to wait and consider her heartbeat as Shibuno rolls in her par saver for a 71 and third-place finish. Here we go, then.

Hinako Shibuno wastes no time. She gives her chip a good run, but it’s always missing on the left. No second title for the Smiling Cinderella, but the 23-year-old Japanese star still has the grace and style to live up to her nickname, beaming warmly as the gallery showers her with sympathetic and loving applause.

Buhai up next, and from the centre of the fairway, she whips a 4-iron into the heart of the green. She leaves herself a 30-footer for birdie and the win; less improbably, two putts for a place in a play-off. Buhai and Shibuno both receive a warm ovation as they walk up the last. What a show they’ve put on. What a show everyone’s put on. And to think some bampots didn’t want women around this place. Whatever happens now: what a Women’s Open this has been!

Shibuno doesn’t have much of a lie. Generating spin a pipe dream. But she’s got to take a shy at the flag and hope for the best. She lashes her hybrid straight at the flag, the ball scampering into the front of the green. It’s never stopping, though, and rolls past the pin and into the rough at the back. She’ll have to hole out from there if she’s to make any possible play-off.

Shibuno cracks her drive at 18 down the right of the fairway ... and is unfortunate to see her ball glide right and disappear into the second cut. Buhai, whose head must be swimming after the events of the last three holes, gathers herself and splits the fairway with a moment of carpe-diem steel. Despite it all, she’s put herself in a position where birdie is more than possible ... and birdie will win her this Women’s Open.

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