Sport

Saso hard-pressed to deliver in last 2 JLPGA tilts

Saso hard-pressed to deliver in last 2 JLPGA tilts

MANILA, Philippines – With pressure mounting, Yuka Saso hopes to deliver in the last two LPGA of Japan Tour events in the next two weeks and complete a record sweep by a rookie of both the Player of the Year and money list honors.

While she has the inside track in the money race, the Fil-Japanese ace’s missed cut stint in last week’s Itoen tournament enabled rival Sakura Koiwai and a surging Ayaka Furue to stay in the hunt for the Mercedes ranking honors with two tournaments left in the pandemic-shortened JLPGA season.

That includes the Daio Paper Ellair Open starting Thursday (November 19) in Ehime Prefecture and the JLPGA Tour Championship Ricoh Cup, the last major, on November 26-29, both 72-hole championships, which stake 300 and 400 points, respectively.

Saso had regained the Player of the Year race lead with a strong runner-up finish in Toto Classic two weeks ago for 928.85 points but her failed bid in Itoen kept Koiwai in the thick of things with 897.09 points despite a joint 36th place finish last week.

But Furue, who nipped Miki Sakai on the third playoff hole to snare the Itoen diadem, her second JLPGA title after the Tokai Classic last Sept., threatened at third with 831.78 points, making it a three-cornered fight for the coveted honors.

Barring a pair of missed cuts, the ICTSI-backed bet is a cinch for the prize money honors with accumulated earnings of Y82,752,170 over 12 tournaments with Koiwai a far second with Y59,432,542 and Earth Mondahmin Cup winner Ayaka Watanabe in third with Y56,034,699 and Furue at fourth with Y55,102,992.

But the last two events will test the top three players' resolve and composure with the Elleair Open offering a top purse of Y18 million from the total prize fund of Y100 million and the Y120 million Ricoh Cup staking Y30 million to the winner.

Meanwhile, Saso hopes to rebound strong in the Elleair Open the way she did in Toto Classic where she finished second after failing to advance in the Mitsubishi Electric the previous week.

Last year’s champion Hinako Shibuno, also the 2019 British Womens’ Open winner, leads the 96-player cast in the Elleair Open set at the par-71, 6545-yard Matsumaya course that also features the circuit’s top guns, including leg winners Shin Jie of Korea, Yuna Nishimura, Mone Inami, Erika Hara and Saki Nagamine and aces Ai Suzuki, Chie Arimura, Momoko Ueda, Minami Katsu, Ayako Kimura, Teresa Lu and Koreans Ji Hee Lee, Lee Min Young and Bae Seon Woo.