South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai clinched the first Major of her career by winning the 2022 AIG Women’s Open after a four-hole playoff.
After being level on 10-under-par with Korea’s In Gee Chun after 72 holes, it took four holes to separate the duo.
It was a par on the fourth playoff hole, after a magnificent bunker shot, which saw Buhai secure her first LPGA Tour title and the AIG Women’s Open crown.
“There is a lot of hard work, and many years of dedication that went into this,” she said. “I know there is a lot of people in South Africa with lots of grey hairs right now – especially after that 15th hole! I’m very proud of myself and how I dug deep and kept myself in it to get into the playoff.”
The 33-year-old held a five-shot lead overnight after rounds of 70 (-1), 65 (-6) and 64 (-7) on the first three days at Muirfield.
But it wasn’t the easiest final day for Buhai who dropped a shot on the second, before making a birdie on the fifth, and dropping another shot on the ninth.
The South African maintained her lead until the par-4 15th when she made a triple bogey which brought her back level with Chun and she kept her cool on the last to ensure she was in the playoff.
“I was surprisingly calm,” she explained. “I kept going through my steps and my thoughts and like I said yesterday, my only thought was 40% and that’s all I tried to do and stay in the moment. On the last, my caddie said to me ‘show them why you are number one in bunkers this year’, she gave me the confidence and maybe it’s also something to do with Muirfield and South Africans and bunker shots.”
Buhai follows in the steps of fellow South Africans Gary Player and Ernie Els, who won The Open Championship at Muirfield in 1959 and 2002, respectively.
After coming close in the 2019 edition of the AIG Women’s Open, it meant a lot for the South African superstar to finally get over the line.
She added: “It is so difficult to put into words now what it means, I think it might only hit me in a few days. I’m very proud. For me to a be female South African Major winner, it is life changing. I have always said the AIG Women’s Open is my favourite event of the year, so to be called a champion is a true honour.”
“I loved this course. It played like should, it was firm and fast, and the wind did what it was supposed to do to be a true test. I’d like to thank my family and my parents back home; I know they’re watching right now – thank you for all your support! I’d like to thank my coach Doug Wood and my mental coach Duncan McCarthy, my caddie Tanya Paterson and lastly my husband David Buhai.”
Japan’s Hinako Shibuno, the 2019 AIG Women’s Open champion, finished in third place on nine-under-par with Ireland’s Leona Maguire, Australia’s Minjee Lee and Sweden’s Madelene Sagström in a tie for fourth place on seven-under-par.
Six players rounded out the top ten and finished in a share of seventh place on five-under-par including three-time LET winner Celine Boutier, 2021 Race to Costa del Sol winner Atthaya Thitikul and two-time LET winner Steph Kyriacou.
The coveted Smyth Salver for low amateur was awarded to American Rose Zhang, who is the number one amateur in the world, after she finished in a tie for 28th place.
In the 2022 Race to Costa del Sol, Sweden’s Maja Stark is still at the top of the rankings and has 2,412.64 points with compatriots Linn Grant in second and Johanna Gustavsson in third.
England’s Georgia Hall moved up to eighth place, while 2022 AIG Women’s Open champion Buhai has jumped from 125th up to 15th place and now has 745.20 points.