Ashleigh Buhai waited until he was 33 to win his first major, so four more holes were wasted. In the final round of the inaugural Women’s Open at Muirfield, after Buhay hit a 75 to take him to a five-shot lead, as the sun set over East Lothian as in the main championship season, Buhai overtook Ying Zhi Chun in a playoff that lasted over an hour. For both men and women.
Buhai is Cinderella’s story on her Wikipedia page only. The South African entered the week missing out on a major top 10 finish (her only one at the 2019 Women’s Open at Woburn), but she is world-ranked. also ranked her 84th, having topped the last two women’s major 25s. She has won the Women’s Professional Golf Championship and the Evian Championship.
She came out to Muirfield for her first three days. After posting a 70 in round 1, 13 birdies, an eagle and just two bogeys in rounds 65 and 64 took him to Sunday’s final, where he led Chun and game partner Hinako Shibuno by 5 to make history at Muirfield. Started 1 week.
At the beginning of the final round she played 14 holes with a good one over before Muirfield wreaked havoc on the par-4 15th hole. Buhay hit his tee shot into a bunker and it got worse from there. A sideways second muted she preceded by a third. She made a triple-bogey seven to move into second place, with Chun one hole ahead. Both parries the final three holes to secure a place in the final.
But she put her hands on the wheel and regained control of her championship. That’s the mark of a mature player. Buhai has been on and off the LPGA Tour since 2008 and once was the youngest winner of the Ladies European Tour in her tour history. But it’s also the mark of a champion who has become Buhai. There were shaky moments in the playoffs as well. Both players struggled with falling temperatures, poor seconds his shots and spine-chilling putts to extend his run in one of the world’s biggest tournaments. Buhai and Chun played his first three holes of the playoffs (all his 18ths at Muirfield) in his 13th at-bat. par bogie par. Then they went to that tee for the fourth time and probably the last hour of the evening, whatever the outcome, as the sun was fading and the light was lacking.
For someone like Buhay, who was playing in her championship in her 43rd major of her career, this could often prove devastating. The world begins to spin, gunshots ring out, and what seemed to be in complete control 10 minutes ago now feels like her 18-wheeler on the ice is going downhill.
Chun hit the ball into the bunker to open the door, but Buhai blocked the approach to the bunker by yelling “5”. Instead, she took a shot of her own life, and Chong left a miracle behind her: Buhai gave her a master who could have slipped through her fingers many times over the past few hours. To give, I poured a short one.
Buhay joined his fellow South Africans Gary Player (1959) and Ernie Els (2002) as champions at Muirfield.
“It’s so hard to put into words right now. I think it might not hit me for a few days,” she said afterward through tears. We are a very small country so it is special to be able to produce great champions. There are no words for being South African and being a big winner. It’s life changing. ” It was an emotional win for her for the very obvious reasons, but paying attention to the less obvious reasons was also an emotionally compelling win.
All great victories are life-changing for men and women alike, but not all are life-changing in the same way. And for Buhai, a career grinder who rarely wins at the world’s highest level, it was a revelation. She grabbed the front of her hat and pulled it over her eyes—a great result for a long summer and an even longer career.
- After a four-hole playoff, Ashleigh Buhai wins her first major championship at the AIG Women’s Open in 2022
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