Saso fights back with 67, finishes tied for 8th spot
YUKA SASO played true to form on Sunday but her gallant effort of 67 fell short as the twotime winner on the current Japanese Ladies Professional Golf Association (JLPGA) Tour wound up tied for eighth in the Descente Tokai Classic topped by Ayaka Furue via playoff in Aichi.
Saso erased the bitter memory of her one-over 73 card in the second round and birdied three of the first five holes. She then toppled a bogey on No. 6 with three more birdies in the last 10 holes of the Shinminami Country Club’s Mihama course.
The 19-year-old Filipino-japanese put together an eight-under 208 for a top 10 finish after struggling for joint 29th in the Golf5 Ladies and sharing 13th place in the Japan LPGA Championship following her sweep of the NEC Karuizawa and Nitori Ladies crowns.
Saso’s strong finish is bound to give her momentum for the circuit’s second major leg, the Japan Women’s Open set from October 1 to 4 in Fukuoka.
The International Container Terminal Services Inc.-backed Saso, who won the driving honors Saturday worth Y500,000, pocketed Y1.87 million (P870,000) and kept the No. 1 ranking in the money race with Y63.964 million after six legs.
Earth Mondahmin Cup winner Ayaka Watanabe regained the No. 2 spot with Y52.228 million while Japan LPGA Championship titlist Saki Nagamine improved to third with Y45.184 million.
Saso, who also firmed up her hold of the Mercedes Player of the Year top spot with 687.35 points, actually appeared headed for a big weekend after kicking off her campaign with a 68 despite a 31-putt performance Friday but failed to check her putting woes for the second straight day, ending up with 32 putts for a 73 Saturday.
The rest of the contenders, meanwhile, sustained their scoring binge with Furue and Hiroko Azuma firing identical 68s to finish tied on top at 15-under 201. But the 20-year-old Furue, who actually topped the Fujitsu Ladies as an amateur last year, birdied the first playoff hole on No. 18 to claim her maiden pro victory worth Y14.4 million.
Taiwanese Pei-ying Tsai placed third at 215 after a 69 while 16-time JLPGA winner Ai Suzuki carded a 71 to tie Saso at eighth with two others.
IN the US, Dottie Ardina blew a two-under card in a wobbly frontside windup, ending up with a 72 and slipping to joint 43rd in the Cambia Portland Classic of the LPGA Tour now paced by England’s Mel Reid in Oregon Friday.
The Canlubang pro checked a rollercoaster backside start with three birdies against a bogey in a 10-hole stretch from No. 15 to move to joint 21st. But she bogeyed the par-5 No. 7 and dropped another stroke on the par-4 ninth to tumble down the leaderboard with a 142, 10 strokes off Reid.
Steady off the mound for the second straight day, Ardina hit all but one fairway but groped with her irons and short game, failing to reach regulation six times although she made up for the struggle with splendid putting, finishing with 29 putts.
Bianca Pagdanganan also pooled a 142 after a similar 72 marred by three bogeys in the first five holes. But she fought back with four straight birdies from No. 9 although a bogey on the 18th stalled her charge.
Still, it was enough for her and Ardina to move to the final round of the 54-hole championship, marking the fourth straight time that the SEA Games double gold medalist has made the cut in her rookie season.
Reid, meanwhile, took charge with a solid 65 for a 132, two ahead of erstwhile joint leader Hannah Green of Australia, who shot a 68 for a 134 with Korean Amy Yang and American Amy Olson at joint third at 135 after a 66 and 68, respectively.