All week players spoke about patience. Waiting for opportunities, not forcing them. Ruoning Yin was testing the limits of that mindset. She had waited 72 holes for a putt of significance to drop. When she finally watched her ball topple over the front edge, she raised her fist and let out a sigh of relief.

It was worth the wait.

The 20-year-old’s birdie putt on the closing hole captured victory at the 2023 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship by one shot over 2021 US Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso at Baltusrol Golf Club. It marked Yin’s first major win, and the first major victory for a Chinese golfer since Shanshan Feng became the first golfer to accomplish that feat at this tournament 11 years ago.

“I’m glad that I can be the second Chinese player after Shanshan won a major. She is the person who inspired me the most,” Yin said. “I think it’s going to push a lot of kids to play golf.”

Photo: Andy Lyons

Yin was statistically the best ball-striker in the field all week. Two of her four rounds were bogey-free. The six bogeys she did make – four in her second round and two in her third – each came via three-putts.

Yin’s winning score of eight-under was largely due to her performance on Baltusrol’s par 5s, which she played in seven-under for the week. It was the 72nd hole where she made the last of those birdies: after her second shot failed to carry the ridge in the middle of the green, sending her ball backwards about 30 paces short of the green, she chipped to 10 feet. With Saso in the clubhouse at seven-under after a closing 66, a playoff look destined. Until Yin’s pulled rolled squarely into the middle of the hole.

“I actually kind of felt that I was going to make it, and I made it,” she said. “It’s a very weird feeling, but I felt it on that putt.”

Much like Scottie Scheffler’s recent performances on the men’s circuit, it was the kind of hot ball-striking yet lukewarm putting display that is often good enough for a high finish, but not necessarily a victory itself. But you don’t win major championships without a bit of luck, the saying goes, and for that Yin had those around her on the leaderboard for that.

Leona Maguire, who won the week leading into the Women’s PGA, had been leading most of the tournament and took a one-shot edge into the final round. She had hit 83 percent of her greens in regulation in her previous seven rounds heading into Sunday and was the player many expected to capture her first major at Baltusrol. But perhaps suffering under the scrutiny of playing in the final group for the first time in her career, or maybe just tired from a busy two-week stretch, Maguire never got comfortable. Her three-over 74 dropped her to T-11.

Instead it was Maguire’s playing partner and longtime friend Stephanie Meadow – “I’ve known her since she read Harry Potter books”, Meadow said of Maguire coming into the final day – who mounted the more formidable challenge. Meadow is yet to win on the LPGA Tour, but she was flirting with the lead for most of the day after a birdie on the par-5 seventh hole. Another one from off the green on the par-5 17th, and a combination of late blunders from other players, meant one more birdie on 18 would match Saso’s score and book her place in the presumed playoff. But when Meadow watched Yin’s birdie putt drop in the group ahead, her task became making eagle to tie, and her luck ran out.

“Sometimes the golf gods are in your favour and sometimes they’re not,” she said. “Obviously it’s not the outcome that either Leona or I wanted today, but we fought hard, and we did our best.”

Rose Zhang and Xiyu Lin, playing in the group ahead of Yin, each made charges of their own, but both stumbled on the 72nd hole. Needing birdies to post seven and eight-under, respectively, both players pulled their drives into the hazard left.

It was an uncharacteristic mistake for Zhang in particular, but the player who came into this year’s tournament with so much attention managed to save par anyway. Her final-round 67 was enough for her first major top 10.

“It’s been incredible,” she said of the tournament. “I felt so much support and love from the crowds out here. It’s super special, and I took it all in for sure.”

Grace Kim was the pick of the Australians in New Jersey, finishing in 14th place after a closing 69 for a three-under total in what is the best major result in her young career.