APPARENTLY crushing under the weight of expectations, Yuka Saso flopped with a final round 75 yesterday and wound up in a four-way tie for sixth at the close of the JPLGA Tour Championship Ricoh Cup at the Miyazaki Country Club in Miyazaki, Japan.
It was the worst round in the 72-hole tournament for Saso, who was only three shots off the lead at the start of the day but unraveled with a string of bogeys from the fifth to seven holes of the par-72, 6,453-yard layout 1,127.3 kilometers southwest of Tokyo.
The Filipino-Japanese carded a four-day total of 284, six shots behind wire-to-wire Japanese champion Erika Hara, who checked in with a 72 for 278 and pocketed the top purse of 30 million yen (roughly P38.1 million) in the season-ending tournament.
With her woeful outing, Saso failed to regain the prestigious Mercedes Order of Merit plum from Japanese Ayaka Furue, who came through with steely performance of an eagle-spiked 68 and placed second with a 280 tally, worth 17,400,000 yen (P8.4 million).
Banking on her three wins in 14 events on the JPLGA tour, Furue clinched the Mercedes Order of Merit honors with 1,371.78 points while Saso was relegated to second with 1,146.5 points. Hara took the No. 3 spot with 1,042.92 points as she gained 400 points in ruling one of the circuit’s majors.
But Saso, the 2018 double Asian gold medalist, who won two events, retained top money honors with total earnings of 93,891,000 yen (P43.4 million), counting the 4,638,000 yen (P2.1 million) she won in the final event of her lucrative and memorable rookie stint on the JLPGA circuit.