AIG Women's Open: Ashleigh Buhai savours "life-changing" major win after dramatic play-off at Muirfield
Buhai defeated KPMG Women's PGA Champion In Gee Chun on the fourth extra hole to join compatriots Gary Player and Ernie Els as South Africans to have celebrated major victory at Muirfield; 33-year-old threw away five-shot lead before play-off win
Last Updated: 08/08/22 3:06pm
Ashleigh Buhai was proud of how she recovered from blowing a five-shot lead to secure a “life-changing” major title and historic victory at the AIG Women’s Open.
Buhai took a commanding lead into the final day at Muirfield and remained in control of the tournament when she took a three-shot advantage to the par-four 15th, only to rack up a triple-bogey and move tied at the top of the leaderboard with In Gee Chun.
The South African finished alongside the three-time major champion on 10 under after a four-over 75, taking the contest to a sudden-death play-off, where a superb up-and-down from Buhai on the fourth extra hole earned her a dramatic victory.
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- WATCH: Buhai's meltdown at the 15th
"I mean, it's probably the worst swing I made all week," Buhai admitted about the 15th hole after her victory. "Was a little quick on the top, but if I had half a lie in that bunker, a plug off the drive, I could have got it out the other way in the fairway. Obviously compounded the mistake.
"I didn't panic, which I thought was huge, and just tried to make a good swing on the next and just try to make good swings coming in to give myself a chance.
"It was very easy to panic and probably come home in an ambulance. I saw the leaderboard walking up 16 I think, and was just like, okay, just hit it. Have a good swing. You can only control this shot. Hit this shot now at the time.
"I hit a really good bunker shot on 17. Hit the putt where I wanted to. That's all I could do, just a little bit of a misread. To play 18 the way I did, but so many times over and to hit that tee shot, it's a tough tee shot. So I was just very happy with how I managed the situation."
Victory sees Buhai become just the second female major winner from South Africa, with thee 33-year-old joining compatriots Gary Player (1959) and Ernie Els (2002) in winning a major at Muirfield.
"I am so proud of myself, how I dug deep to get into the play-off," added. "It's so difficult to put into words right now. It might only hit me in a few days but obviously I'm very proud.
"We're a very small country so to be able to produce quite a few major champions it's quite something, and now for me to be a female South African major winner I've got no words - it's life-changing."
Former champion Hinako Shibuno finished a shot outside the play-off after a final round of 71, with Ireland's Leona Maguire two strokes further back in a tie for fourth alongside Madelene Sagstrom and Minjee Lee.
Maguire, who secured her best finish to date in a major thanks to an eagle and three birdies in a flawless closing 66, said: "(I'm) really pleased. I don't think I could have played much better today. Had a few chances coming in, would have been nice to hole a couple more putts, but it was tough out there and definitely my best golf of the week.
"Any time you shoot bogey-free under par in the last round of a major you're happy so it's nice momentum heading into next week (the ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland)."