Ashleigh Buhai in tears after winning the first major in playoff drama to win the Women’s Open

Ashleigh Buhai comes through the playoffs to take the Women's Open

Ashleigh Buhai comes through the playoffs to take the Women’s Open

Ashleigh Buhai claimed her first major after a dramatic play-off against South Korean world No. 11 Chun In-gee.

After keeping calm for so long, she burst into tears and hugged her husband David, who had watched anxiously after he had spent the day caddying for another South Korean, Lee Jeong-eun.

Buhai dedicated the win to her husband, who had caddied for her for eight years before they married in 2016. Then, for both marital and financial reasons, the couple decided it was better to have separate golf attempts than one. “This one’s for you, David,” she tearfully said as she went on to explain “this has been a 15-year journey” as the pair met when she was still a teenager and he a talented aspiring golfer at a golf course in Johannesburg. academy.

It was far from an easy victory for the world No 84 despite starting the day with a five-shot lead when she triple bogeyed the 15th hole before advancing to the play-off against three-time major winner Chun.

“Forgive me if there are any tears. Many years and commitment have gone into this. No doubt there will be people with a lot more gray hair in South Africa right now, especially after the 15th.

“Ok Ashleigh” Buhai told herself in encouragement as she hit her first shot of the fourth playoff before landing in the bunker, but the self-encouragement paid off as she made a stunning chip to get out of trouble. It was reminiscent of Ernie Els’ bunker shot on the 13th to help him to victory at the same venue 20 years ago, where he also claimed a playoff. She had been watching videos of the famous photo this week for inspiration, and it paid off.

Ashleigh Buhai comes through the playoffs to take the Women's Open

Ashleigh Buhai comes through the playoffs to take the Women’s Open

It was a particularly poignant victory as this was the first Women’s Open to be staged at Muirfield – after the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers admitted only female members for the first time in 2019.

Buhai, 33, described this first major win as “life-changing” and it will be both on and off the court as she earned $1.095 million (£829,000), almost five times her earnings from last year.

Ashleigh Buhai comes through the playoffs to take the Women's Open

Ashleigh Buhai comes through the playoffs to take the Women’s Open

Buhai was regarded as a child prodigy in South Africa before turning professional at the age of 18. She also had a bright start to her LET career with three wins and after 222 starts on the LPGA the Johannesburg woman finally got the win and there is no better to win than the Women’s Open.

Buhai was still three ahead with four holes to play, only to run up a triple-bogey seven on the 15th after finding the sin and off the tee and splashing sideways into heavy rough.

That put her in a tie for the lead with Chun, whose closing 70 set the clubhouse mark at 10 under.

Ashleigh Buhai comes through the playoffs to take the Women's Open

Ashleigh Buhai comes through the playoffs to take the Women’s Open

After her birdie putt on the par-five 17th caught the edge of the hole and stayed out, Buhai had to hole out from 4 feet at the last to force a playoff after hitting her long birdie attempt past the hole.

The players returned to the 18th for extra holes and Chun brilliantly saved par from a greenside bunker to keep her hopes alive, with Buhai two-putting from long range.

Both players missed the green on the second extra hole and hit poor third shots before Chun hit his par putt 8 feet past the hole, but the 27-year-old settled down to save a bogey after Buhai’s long par attempt fell short.

Chun and Buhai hit superb shots on the green on the third extra hole, but neither could convert.

With concern that the official sunset time was 9.06pm, there were fears that the play-off could be extended into today, with Buhai and Chun playing just 10 minutes before with the light over the Firth of Forth rapidly fading.

But Buhai eventually settled the result in style with a brilliant bunker shot that set up a tap-in par that Chun – who had found sand off the tee – was unable to match.

With winds up to 30km/h, some Muirfield members predicted a four-shot swing. Leona Maguire benefited, as the best of the British and Irish challenge.

Playing in swirling winds is something the 27-year-old grew up with in County Cavan and she showed it in the typical links conditions, carding a five-under 66 to finish on seven under and tied for fourth overall.

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