Mendoza: Saso’s early signs of greatness

·2 min read

The aerial battle doesn’t define golf. The war is won on the ground.

It’s not how you drive, but how you arrive, remember?

You leave your foes behind with booming drives. Great.

You plant your approaches to within makeable putts. Great.

But if you come up empty at the appointed time, all is in vain.

You can never arrive right if you keep bungling it, if you either putt short or long, if you either go right or left.

C’mon, if you can’t deliver the goods, what’s the point in uncorking those hissing missiles from the tee, in placing flawless irons/hybrid woods on the dance floor?

Yes, the longest clubs take care of the air space, fired like rockets roaring up in the sky.

Oh, how awesome to watch a booming drive splitting the fairway, “landing in the center of the middle.”

But it’s the shortest club in your bag that ultimately gets the job done. That club is usually not longer than grandpa’s cane, at most looking as harmless as an axe without a blade. The Scots call it the “bloody putter.”

Not handled properly, goodbye.

Lexi Thompson (75) mishandled it Monday (June 7, PH time) and she lost a five-shot lead in the last nine holes, losing the U.S. Open by a single shot after missing two short putts for two bogeys on her last two holes.

Terrible. Only a day back, she shot a bogey-free 66 at the brutish par-71 Olympic golf course in San Francisco, California, where our very own Yuka Saso won because she coaxed her putter into submission in a most amazing manner.

Saso’s last two putts keyed her historic $1-million (roughly P50 million) victory that made her the first Filipina to win it and also the youngest champ at 19 years, 11 months and 17 days, tying South Korea’s Inbee Park (2008 winner).

Facing defeat in the second playoff hole against Japan’s Nasa Hataoko (68=minus 4), Saso (73=minus 4) drilled in a six-foot par putt to stay alive.

And in the third playoff hole, Saso, overcoming two double-bogeys at second and third, banged home a right-to-left putt from 10 feet to win with a birdie: a rare finish in a major.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Saso, shedding tears of joy.

You bury back-to-back killer putts on the grandest stage, what’s that? Great.

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