Yuka Saso falls short, bows to Jillian Bourdage
Dante Navarro (The Philippine Star) - July 28, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Fifth ranked Jillian Bourdage ended Yuka Saso’s run in the semifinals of the US Girls’ Junior Championship with a clutch putt and a superb rescue shot, hacking out a 2-up decision to seal a title showdown with No. 7 Lei Ye of China at SentryWorld in Stevens Points, Wisconsin Friday (Saturday in Phl).

Bourdage blew a 2-up lead with five holes left as Saso parred and birdied Nos. 14 and 15, respectively, but the ace from Florida drilled in a curling 16-foot birdie putt in drizzle after Saso putted short from 20 feet out to wrest back the lead.

Outdriven by the top seeded Fil-Japanese, Bourdage then hacked a solid 4-hybrid approach shot from 174 yards to within six feet and clinched the 2-up victory as Saso conceded the match after flubbing her birdie bid from just about the same distance off a power drive into the rough.

“That one felt really good,” said Bourdage of her putt on the 17th. “I just had to trust myself and not blow it by six feet. I can’t even describe the words how amazing it felt to make that putt.”

Two down after nine holes, Saso appeared headed to duplicating her come-from-behind 2-up victory over Rose Zhang by winning three of the last four holes, including two birdies, in morning play as she forced an all-square match with Bourdage with that par-birdie effort.

But after both parred the par-3 16th in wet conditions, Saso failed to match Bourdage’s spectacular approach shot on the 17th, her iron shot landing some 20 feet left of the cup. She came up short in her birdie try and Bourdage took the cue and knocked in that lead-grabbing putt.

That ended Saso’s pursuit of the crown that most thought would be hers following her dominating performance in the stroke-play elims and an equally impressive showing in the first three stages of the knockout phase and that escape act over Zhang.

In the other semis pairing, Ye birdied the first three holes and never gave Nicole Whiston to recover, countering her rival’s back-to-back birdies from No. 4 with her own birdies on Nos. 8, 11 and 14.

Whiston threatened one last time with a birdie on No. 15 but flubbed a birdie putt from close range on the 16th, enabling Ye to run away with a 3&2 victory.

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