Saso holds ground against world's best

Saso holds ground against world's best

MANILA, Philippines — After a rousing three-under 69 in the opener, Fil-Japanese ace Yuka Saso slowed down with a 71 and fell to joint 12th in the star-studded ANA Inspiration Championship in Rancho Mirage, California Friday.

Saso, who started the day in eighth spot, carded nines of 35-36 on a hot afternoon at Mission Hills Dinah Shore course for four-under overall, just a few strokes behind the world’s top golfers,

She sat five shots off Thai leader Patty Tavatanakit at the halfway point of the $3.2 million event.

Tavatanakit followed up an opening 66 with an eagle-aided 69 to retain a one-stroke lead at nine-under 135 against Chinese Shanshan Feng.

A 10-time LPGA winner who is playing for the first time since November 2019, Feng had six birdies in her three-under 69 for 136.

Big gun Moriya Jutanugarn was alone in third after a 69 for 137 while Sweden’s two-time major winner Anna Nordqvist (70) and England’s Charley Hull (69) shared fourth on 138.

A group at 139 included world No. 1 Ko Jin-young of South Korea, former major winners Lydia Ko of New Zealand, Park In-bee of South Korea and Sophia Popov of Germany, and defending champion Lee Mi-rim of South Korea – who won the rescheduled 2020 edition last September.

The 19-year-old Saso was actually at five-under for the tournament until she bogeyed the par-5 18th hole.

While Saso’s two-round card of 140 kept her in the fight, compatriot Bianca Pagdanganan bombed out of weekend play.

Pagdanganan shot a 73 to slightly improve on her first-round 75 but missed the cut by four strokes.

Tavatanakit, who played college golf at the University of California, got off to a stuttering start with a bogey at the 10th hole.

But she rebounded with a hole-out for eagle at the par-four 15th – what she called a “slam dunk” – and a birdie at 16.

With birdies at the second and fourth she reached 10-under par, giving a stroke back with a bogey at the seventh before finishing her round with two straight pars. – AFP