Ashleigh Buhai Wins Thrilling AIG Women's Open In Tense Playoff
At the fourth playoff hole, it was the South African who claimed the title in an enthralling final day at the AIG Women's Open
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With four holes to go, it seemed that Ashleigh Buhai was on her way to a first LPGA Tour and Major title in 221 starts. However, after finding a bunker off the tee at the 15th, a hard watch for fans soon followed, as the South African hacked her way down the hole for a horrid triple bogey.
Going from three shots clear to a share of the lead, you may have been forgiven for thinking that was it. Buhai though battled back, making three superb pars, including one at the 72nd hole, to force a playoff with South Korean, In Gee Chun.
After three playoff holes where the two couldn't be separated, it came down to a drive at the fourth that made the difference, with Chun's tee shot finding the bunker and forcing a lay-up.
Despite having the advantage, Buhai found the bunker with her second shot, but an unbelievable up-and-down followed as Chun missed her par putt. Overcome with emotion, Buhai was joined on the green by her husband, David, with the South African soaked in champagne for her efforts.
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Starting the day, it was Buhai who led, with two rounds of 65 and 64 putting her five shots ahead on a leaderboard stacked with Major winners. However, following three birdies in her opening six holes, Chun had closed that gap to just two shots.
What's more, that lead was then halved before the front nine had even finished, with the South Korean cutting the advantage to one as the fun began on the back nine. Buhai though has been one of the big scorers this week and, thanks to a run of pars whilst others struggled, she extended the lead to three.
The 33-year-old was cruising, or so it seemed... Coming to the 15th, Buhai snap hooked her tee shot into one of Muirfield's bunkers. Although unclear as to whether she could take a stance to get back to the fairway, the South African played it into the thick rough. What happened next was painful to watch.
Chunking her next, the fourth shot finished shy of the green, with her pitch shot then running well past the hole. A double bogey putt lacked any conviction, as it came up well shy of the target, after tapping-in, she was back into a share of the lead with Chun.
For Buhai, it wasn't quite a disaster, Chun was up ahead and, following a par at the last, Buhai knew she would need a one-under score over the last two holes to win. Her attempt at the par 5 17th didn't drop though, with only a superb par at the last forcing a playoff between the two players.
Following a par-bogey-par run of holes on the 18th, the two went back to the 18th tee for a fourth time, as the light faded around the Links layout. However, following a lay up from a fairway bunker from Chun, it was advantage Buhai.
Winning is never easy though and, after Chun stuck her third pin high left, the South African couldn't follow, as a leaked second found the bunker, fortunately not plugging! Sticking a classy shot close, Chun's putt missed, leaving Buhai to tap in for victory and to join the likes of Gary Player and Ernie Els as the only South Africans to win at Muirfield.
Matt joined Golf Monthly in February 2021 covering weekend news, before also transitioning to equipment and testing. After freelancing for Golf Monthly and The PGA for 18 months, he was offered a full-time position at the company in October 2022 and continues to cover weekend news and social media, as well as help look after Golf Monthly’s many buyers’ guides and equipment reviews.
Taking up the game when he was just seven years of age, Matt made it into his county squad just a year later and continues to play the game at a high standard, with a handicap of around 2-4. To date, his best round came in 2016, where he shot a six-under-par 66 having been seven-under through nine holes. He currently plays at Witney Lakes in Oxfordshire and his favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.
Matt’s current What’s In The Bag?
Driver: Honma TW747, 8.75°
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade Rocketballz Stage 2, 15°, 19°
Hybrid: Adams Super Hybrid, 22°
Irons: Mizuno MP54, 5-PW
Wedges: Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0 Tour Satin, 50°, 56°, 60°
Putter: Cleveland TFI 2135 Satin Cero
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
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