AFTER a forgettable third round, Filipino-Japanese Yuka Saso settled down and fired a 71 yesterday (Sunday in the US) to finish tied for 50th with six others at the close of the 50th ANA Inspiration Golf Championship at the Mission Hill Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.
Starting on the front nine, the only blemish for Saso, who shot a 77 in the third round, was a double bogey on the par-4 No. 11 against three birdies, the last on No. 18, on the way to a four-round tally of 288 on the par-72, 6,763-yard Dinah Shore Tournament course.
The 2018 Asian Games double gold medalist and Philippine Sportswriters Association 2020 Athlete of the Year pocketed $10,081 (roughly P489,936), finishing 18 shots behind Thai rookie Patty Tavatanakit, who completed her wire-to-wire Cinderella finish by shooting an eagle-aided 68.
Tavatanakit held off late-charging Kiwi Lydia Ko, who scorched the course with a bogey free 10-under 62, winning by two with a 72-hole tally of 270 in the first major championship of the year in women’s pro golf to secure the top pot of $465,000 (P22.6 million).
In keeping with tradition, the Thai took a dip in “Poppie’s Pond” surrounding the 18th green, name after the late tournament director Terry Wilcox, who ran the event from 1994 to 2008 and was known as “Poppie.”
Eight strokes behind going into the last round, Ko, who won the 2016 edition of the tournament, was flawless on the front nine with a 7-under 29, highlighted by an eagle on the par-4 No. 2 plus five birdies, tying the best nine-hole mark in the event’s 50-year history.
The former world No. 1 added three more birdies on the front nine on the way to tying the tournament record of 62 set by Mexican Lorena Ochoa in the first round 15 years ago and settled for the runner-up purse of $287,716 (P13.9 million).
Saso is expected to return to Japan and resume her campaign on the Japanese LPGA tour this Friday with the 54-hole Fujifilm Studio Alice Women’s Open at the Hanayashiki Golf Club course in city of Miki, Hyogo, Japan.
The competition offers a total pot of 100 million yen (P43.9 million) with the champion taking home 18 million yen (P7.9 million).