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South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai defeats In Gee Chun in play-off to win AIG Women’s Open

Image credit: R&A

Ashleigh Buhai defeated In Gee Chun at the fourth extra hole of a sudden-death play-off to win her first major title in dramatic style in the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield.

The 33-year-old let slip a five-shot overnight lead with a closing four-over 75 – largely due to a triple bogey at the 15th – to finish level with Chun on a ten-under-par total of 274.

However, the South African held her nerve to finally win with a par at the fourth time of playing the par-4 18th to secure her biggest win.

Buhai, ranked 84th in the Rolex Women’s Golf Rankings with three previous Ladies’ European Tour wins to her name, denied Korea’s Chun, 27, a fourth major victory.

Japan’s Hinako Shibuno, the 2019 Champion at Woburn, secured third place thanks to a final round level-par 71 for a nine-under-par total.

Buhai joins famous past winners from South Africa to win at Muirfield after Ernie Els (2002) and Gary Player (1959) both won The Open over the renowned links.

The victor received $1.095million for her efforts after the overall prize fund was increased to $7.3 million for this year’s Championship.

Ireland’s Leona Maguire (66), Minjee Lee from Australia (69) and Swede Madelene Sagstrom (71) tied for fourth spot on seven-under-par.

In an historic week for golf with Muirfield hosting the AIG Women’s Open for the first time, 33,303 fans enjoyed attending the Championship as Buhai triumphed.

American Rose Zhang, the number one ranked amateur in the world, won the Smyth Salver for leading amateur after finishing on one-over-par for her 72 holes following a closing 73.

In breezy conditions once more on the East Lothian coast, it proved a fascinating final round. After the opening nine holes, Buhai’s healthy overnight advantage had been cut to just one. Chun’s fine front nine, with birdies at the 2nd, 4th and 6th, saw her reach 12-under while Buhai dropped back to 13-under after a second bogey of the day at the par-5 9th.

Bogeys from Chun at the 10th and 12th allowed Buhai to regain control and a three-shot lead. However, after driving into the bunker on the par-4 15th, she then took two shots in the heavy rough leading to a triple-bogey seven to fall back level with Chun.

The pair parred the closing three holes to finish level at the top before Buhai’s play-off triumph, winning with a brilliant greenside bunker shot for a decisive par.

Maguire surged through the field to finish as the leading Great Britain and Ireland player after her closing five-under-par round of 66. Scotland’s Louise Duncan finished just inside the top-20 on one-under-par after a closing 69, the same mark as Jodi Ewart Shadoff from England.

Next year’s AIG Women’s Open will be played at Walton Heath, with St Andrews hosting the 2024 Championship and Royal Porthcawl in 2025.

Ashleigh Buhai said: “I’m a little overwhelmed to be honest. I’m trying to take a breath, but it’s obviously fantastic to win this championship, the AIG Women's Open, it's a dream come true.

“I was fairly calm in the play-off. I just tried to focus on what I was doing. I couldn't control anything else but I knew it was going to be tough.

“It's a huge honour to have more South African success here. To follow those two greats (Els and Player), two of my idols growing up, and for us to play here for the first time at Muirfield, making history, I'm very, very honoured and very, very proud to be South African right now.

Runner-up In Gee Chun said: “I did what I could do. Ashleigh made a great up-and-down on 18 (in the play-off to win). Almost close, but still, I don't want to give up and I just want to look for another tournament, another day.

“I just tried to stay in the present, that was my goal before the start of the final round. Then I played the play-off, so I'm still happy. To be honest, it's not like happy-happy, but still, I think I made a good result and just I don't want to like looking for any history. It’s already done and I just want to keep playing.”