Yuka Saso watched videos of Rory McIlroy’s golf swing for an hour on YouTube before she went to bed each night. What did Saso like best about the four-time major champion’s swing?
“Everything,” Saso said about McIlroy.
Saso watched her favorite golfer and replicated his swing move by move and turn by turn. The description used to describe McIlroy’s swing can just as easily be used to explain Saso’s as side-by-side the resemblance between their two swings is strikingly similar.
McIlroy noticed it, too, when Saso jumped into contention at the U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club.
After holding the 36-hole lead, Saso entered the final round one-stroke back of Lexi Thompson. And while much has been made of Thompson’s struggles down the stretch on Sunday, Saso faced her own challenges with two double bogeys on her opening nine. Upset with her start to the round, she turned to her caddie, Lionel Matichuk, who reminded her that she still had a chance to win.
“My caddie talked to me and said, ‘just keep on going; there's many more holes to go,’” Saso recalled after her win. “That's what I did.”
During that final round on Sunday, Saso rallied with birdies at Nos. 16 and 17, back-to-back par 5s, which put Saso atop the leaderboard. She would go on to defeat Nasa Hataoka on the third playoff hole to become a Rolex First
While wearing the champion’s Mickey Wright Medal around her neck, Saso learned the life-changing news that with her victory she also earned full-membership on the LPGA Tour.
“I get LPGA? Are you kidding me?” Saso said in a video that was shared on the LPGA Tour’s Twitter account. At the time, Saso was not a member of the Tour. The endearing response from the 19-year-old was a heartwarming one as that Sunday at The Olympic Club Saso was seeing all her dreams come true.
With her victory, Saso became the first Filipino, male or female, to win one of golf’s major championships and tied Inbee Park, to the day, as the youngest winner of the U.S. Women’s Open.
“If you are willing to put time, so much time and effort for you to achieve that dream, I think it takes a lot of sacrifice and, if you’re willing to do that, I think there’s nothing impossible to achieve,” Saso told the USGA after her victory. “You have to sacrifice and most importantly enjoy the sport. You have to love it.”
Although the two had never met in person, McIlroy reached out across social media to congratulate Saso on her victory.
“Everyone’s going to be watching Yuka Saso swing videos on YouTube now. Congratulations!” Tweeted the Northern Irishman.
One month later, Saso attended the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines where she met McIlroy for the first time. They walked together, inside the ropes, for three holes. No doubt, Saso took the opportunity to ask her favorite player the burning questions she’d amassed from watching his swing hour upon hour. She said after the meeting that she was more nervous getting to talk with McIlroy than she was winning the U.S. Women’s Open.
“When I asked him a question, he was so honest. I hope I can ask him [for] more advice,” Saso said about the meeting. “I can't share it with you guys. I want to keep it with me.”