RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIFORNIA – Ayako Uehara fell short in her attempt at a first major title on Sunday, finishing eighth at the ANA Inspiration, the first of the year’s five women’s majors.
Darkness caused play to be suspended with Pernilla Lindberg of Sweden and Park In-bee of South Korea unable to be separated after the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff.
Jennifer Song of the United States was eliminated in the third playoff hole when she could not match birdies from Lindberg and Park after the trio finished the four rounds at Mission Hills Country Club at 15-under.
Uehara, who entered the final round five shots off the pace, carded four birdies and a lone bogey for a 69 to finish with sole possession of eighth place. She closed the tournament at 12-under-par.
“I had some good plays. I don’t think I’m too far from a win. I think I was able to make an OK impression. In order to win you also need luck on your side,” Uehara said.
“Competing in the season’s opening major championship was a good experience. I’ll do my best to learn from this and get a win as soon as I can.”
Uehara made an early charge to convert birdie chances on her first three holes, momentarily surging to the top of the leaderboard at 12-under.
But the 34-year-old could not maintain the pace after the turn. She missed a seven-foot birdie putt on the 15th, had her birdie chance die on the edge of the cup on the 16th and pushed another putt right on 17th.
“I thought, ‘come on, why aren’t they going in?’ When you win you make those shots,” she said.
Despite seeing her hopes of winning evaporate before the 18th, Uehara made an incredible par save to end on a good note. After driving to the edge of the water and finding herself with no footing, she slipped off her shoes and got wet to ensure she would not drop a shot.
Also for Japan, 19-year-old Nasa Hataoka shot her second 73 of the week and finished tied for 48th at 2-under.
“It was good I achieved my first goal of making the cut. When you hit your tee shots into the rough, it’s hard to recover. That’s where I struggled the most. I’m going to go watch the (April 5-8) Masters where I hope to pick up putting and approach tips,” Hataoka said.
Ai Suzuki, 23, went 72-73-80-76 to finish last of the players to have made the cut at 13-over.
“After playing in tough conditions in a major I know where I’m at level wise. It was a frustrating week where I couldn’t cover up my mistakes. My short game needs a lot of work. I need to do a lot of thinking and come up with a strategy,” Suzuki said.