Fifth ranked Jillian Bourdage came through with a clutch putt and superb rescue shot in the stretch, pulling off a shock 2-up victory over top seed Yuka Saso to arrange a title showdown with No. 7 Lei Ye of China at SentryWorld in Stevens Points, Wisconsin Friday.
Bourdage blew a 2-up lead with five holes left as Saso parred and birdied Nos. 14 and 15, respectively, but the former banged in a 16-foot birdie putt on No. 16 after Saso putted short from 20 feet out to go 1-up again.
The Florida bet then hit a solid 4-hybrid approach shot from 174 yards on the last hole to within six feet and clinched the 2-up victory as Saso conceded the match after muffing 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 looked headed to duplicating her come-from-behind 2-up quarterfinals 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 those par-birdie effort.
But after both parred the par-3 16th, 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.