SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Becoming the second woman from China to win a major championship left Ruoning Yin in awe, even an hour after being handed the Women’s PGA Championship trophy at Baltusrol.
“When I was walking to this tent, I just said: ‘Oh, wow, major winner!’ It’s amazing. It’s just unreal,” Yin said Sunday.
Yin made a birdie putt from about 10 feet on the final hole to beat Yuka Saso by 1 stroke. The 20-year-old closed with a 4-under 67 to finish at 8-under 276 and take a place in Chinese sports history next to Shanshan Feng.
“I would say she’s definitely the goal that I’m chasing,” Yin said. “But I think she is the person who inspired me the most.”
Feng, now national golf coach in China, won 23 events worldwide, including 10 on the LPGA Tour.
Yin wasn’t even playing golf when Feng won this event — then known as the LPGA Championship — in 2012. She was 9 years old and didn’t take up the game for another 18 months. Her main sport was basketball and she idolized Stephen Curry, but her shorter stature led her to turn to golf.
Yin has really turned it on the past two years. She picked up her first LPGA Tour win earlier this year in Los Angeles and now is the third player to win twice this season, joining Lilia Vu and world No. 1 Jin Young Ko. This win came with a $1.5 million paycheck.
Yin earned it with her fourth birdie on a bogey-free day.
After Saso made birdie ahead of her on the par-5 18th hole to move into a tie for the lead, Yin found the rough with her tee shot, then hit her third shot into an ideal spot and curled in the right-to-left breaking putt, pumping her fist after it dropped.
“I actually kind of felt that I was going to make it, and I made it,” said Yin, who hit a tournament-best 66 greens in regulation and 48 of 56 fairways. “It’s a very weird feeling.”
Rose Zhang, who won in her professional debut three weeks ago, also in New Jersey, made a charge with a final-round 67 and finished in a tie for eighth, 3 shots back.
Saso, the U.S. Women’s Open champion in 2021, shot 66. The championship had a midround delay of nearly two hours because of severe weather, and Yin made three of her birdies after the restart.
Saso, from Japan, thought she had blown her chance to win when she missed a 10-foot birdie attempt to tie the lead at No. 17. She got up and down from a greenside bunker to birdie the final hole.
“After missing the birdie on 17, I just wished that I wouldn’t hit my drive in the water on 18,” she said. “But glad I didn’t. Hit a good shot, and second shot hit it in the left bunker. It was not an easy bunker shot, but it was manageable, and I was able to manage it pretty good.”
Xiyu Lin, who either led or shared the lead during most of her back nine, found the water with her drive on the 18th and made bogey — shooting 67 and finishing 2 shots back alongside Carlota Ciganda (64), Anna Nordqvist (65), Megan Khang (67) and Stephanie Meadow (70).
“Unfortunately I didn’t hit a good tee shot on the last hole,” said 27-year-old Lin, who is winless on the LPGA Tour but came in ranked No. 14 in the world. “But it could have happened any other hole. I think overall I gave myself good chances. It’s still a really good Sunday to have a lot to take away from.”
Lin, also from China, rents a house in Florida to Yin and has joked that she is going to raise the rent.
Yin was asked about it after winning.
“Oh, wow. Actually I’m thinking about buy her house right now,” she said, drawing laughs. “Yeah, just think about it.”
Leona Maguire, who won last week and led after the second and third rounds, shot 74, ending a run of eight straight rounds in the 60s. Seeking to become the first woman from Ireland to win a major, she finished 4 shots back. Maguire did not speak to the media.
Baltusrol yielded only 16 rounds under par Thursday, but with the course softened by rain, 35 players broke par in the final round, including tournament-low rounds of 64 from Ciganda and Perrine Delacour. No one had shot better than 66 before Sunday.
Zhang, who turned pro after winning her second straight NCAA individual title, started the round at 1 under and got to 6 under at No. 11 with her fifth birdie of the round. She never got closer, sandwiching bogeys at Nos. 13 and 16 around a birdie at 14. She hit her tee shot into the water on the last hole and salvaged par.
“It’s really cool to see that my game is there, and I just have to work a little extra harder to play better,” the 20-year-old said.
The next event on the LPGA Tour is another major, the U.S. Women’s Open, which will be July 6-9 at Pebble Beach.