Saso hot in JLPGA debut

Saso hot in JLPGA debut

MANILA, Philippines  — Yuka Saso put on a brilliant display of power and control, churning out a solid six-under 66 to force a tie with two others in the rain-hit Earth Mondahmin Cup in a more than impressive maiden stint on the LPGA of Japan Tour in Chiba yesterday.

The Fil-Japanese endured an hour-long rain delay in late afternoon play, breaking a run of pars in a backside start with birdies on Nos. 15 and 18 then running off a stirring four-birdie binge from No. 3 to spike a 32-34 card in a solid start for a player who came into the $2.1 million event with toned-down expectations in her first JLPGA event after the long hiatus from coronavirus pandemic.

But her fiery start should change all that as the 2018 Asian Games double-gold winner grabbed the first-day spotlight with Japanese Mayu Hamada and Tsugumi Miyazaki, putting herself in early contention with superb shotmaking and iron play, capped by solid putting on the softened surface of the well-kept par-72, tree-lined layout.

The troika stood a shot ahead of Seira Oki and Rumi Yoshiba, who carded identical 67s, while 15-time JLPGA winner Momoko Ueda led nine other local stars with 68s as 60 from the starting field of 144 broke par with 21 others matching par.

But the day belonged to Saso, a two-time Philippine Ladies Open titlist and winner of two pro events back home while still playing as an amateur, who couldn’t seem to get going with a couple of missed birdie chances in the first six holes in overcast skies at the back.

She finally nailed one on the par-3 15 then added another from short range on No. 17 but it was not until she rolled in her third birdie on No. 4 that sparked the ICTSI-backed bet’s fiery windup, raising hopes for a rousing week for the 19-year-old Fil-Japanese talent.

A solid iron shot netted another birdie on the par-3 No. 4 then capped her run with back-to-back feats, the last an uphill putt from eight that curled to the left and disappeared into the cup, leaving her in awe.

That pushed her alongside Miyazaki, who likewise anchored her similar 32-34 card with four birdies in row from No. 1 while Hamada slowed down from a scorching backside 32 with pars in the last six holes at the front to match Saso and Miyazaki’s bogey-free cards.