SOUTHERN PINES, NORTH CAROLINA | 19-year-old Yuka Saso won the 2021 U.S. Women's Open presented by ProMedica and will have the chance to be the third champion to win back-to-back U.S. Opens at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club.
"I wouldn't compare myself to Annika and Karrie Webb. They're awesome players. They're legends. I will do my best, but whatever the outcome is, I'll be grateful," Saso said of the two previous champions to make it back-to-back at Pine Needles.
The young major champion said her astonishing win at the last U.S. Open was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Now Yuka's picture is plastered around the tournament, reminding everyone of her famous feat.
“Doesn't it make you tired looking at me? Yeah, it feels great,” Saso joked.
Although the photos and viral attention around her win last year were quite a shock, she said the biggest surprise after winning the U.S. Women’s Open was getting her LPGA Tour card.
“It was amazing. It was life-changing, and at the same time, to have the trophy for a year, it was awesome,” Saso said.
Yuka made last year's playoff round with two-over 73 facing Japan's Nasa Hataoka, who she defeated after an 8-foot birdie on the third hole.
"I got to visit very famous places with the trophy. It's the first time the U.S. Women's Open trophy (went) back to the Philippines. It was awesome and bringing it back to my home club and seeing my friends back home after two years, and especially with the trophy, it was just awesome," she said.
Now an official member of the LPGA, Saso said she is grateful for everything the USGA has done and becoming a defending champion hasn't changed her mindset.
"It's not weird, but I get very shy. (People would say) you're the U.S. Women's Open champ. At some point last year, they started calling me champ or U.S. Women's Open champ, not by my name," she said.
Ranked 15th on the Rolex list and coming off of a 12T finish at the Cognizant Founders Cup, Yuka said she isn't nervous about this week and just wants to have fun.
"I think in the U.S. Open, you need everything, not just one part of your game. I think everything has to be good. The golf course is great, very beautiful, and very difficult, especially the greens. I think it's going to be a great challenge for all of us," Saso said.
A few weeks after winning the U.S. Women’s Open, Yuka met Rory Mcllroy and started watching his videos to perfect her game.
"I see some of his shots. He's trying to hit fade with his driver to be more consistent. I think that's a good way of seeing; with drive, you have to be long, but at the same time, you have to be consistent, and off the tee, I think I've been learning a lot from him recently," she said.
Saso will have the chance to make history again this week as she plays for the largest LPGA purse to date and could potentially walk away with 1.8 million dollars in prize money.