FILIPINO-Japanese Yuka Saso wheeled into early contention yesterday in the prestigious Japan LPGA Championship, opening her campaign with a four-under 68 at the JFE Setonaikai Golf Club in the scenic city of Okayama, Japan.
Saso assembled nines of 33-35, spiked by five birdies, at the wind-swept par-72, 6,640-yard layout and was tied for third with five others at press time in the event also known as the Minolta Konica Cup and considered one of the circuit’s majors outside the Japan Women’s Open.
She had just one bogey – on No. 18 – after her approach shot landed on the left bunker on the par-five hole and she failed to recover. She dropped into a bunch that included Japanese Sakura Koiwai, who shot a bogey-free 68.
They were two shots behind co-leaders Lee Min Young of South Korea, who shot an eagle-aided 66, and Japan’s Aoki Serena, who began on the back nine on the way to a similar 66 in the 72-hole tournament offering a total pot of 200 million yen (P91.5 million) and a first prize of 36 million yen (P16.4 million)
Starting on the front nine, Saso parred the first five holes before finding her groove and gunning down three straight birdies on holes No. 6 to 8 in finishing with a three-under 33.
The 2018 Asian Games double gold medalist gained two more strokes on the back nine with birdies on holes No. 13 and 16 and looked headed for an unblemished round until she stumbled on the final hole following a bad approach.
The hottest golfer on the JLPGA following wins in the NEC Karuizawa 72 and Nittori Ladies golf tournaments, Saso currently leads the tour’s Mercedes rankings with total earnings of 59,448,000 million yen (P27.2 million).