MANILA, Philippines — For a share of fifth place in the Earth Mondahmin Cup in Chiba, Japan, 19-year-old Yuka Saso pocketed 8.6 million yen or a whopping P4.02 million yesterday.
The Filipino golfer of Japanese descent charged back with two late birdies for a four-under 68 and a strong finish in the rain-hit tournament ruled by Ayaka Watanabe via playoff at the Camellia Hills Country Club.
Six off erstwhile leader Mizuki Tanaka after the weather-postponed final round Sunday, Saso launched her final-round charge with two birdies in the first five holes then rebounded from a bogey on the sixth with birdies on Nos. 8, 15 and 17 to pull within one off joint leaders Watanabe and Ai Suzuki.
But the 2018 Asian Games double gold medal medalist couldn’t buy a birdie on the par-5 18th, finishing with a par for a pair of 34s and a nine-under 279 with previous rounds of 66, 74 and 71 in her maiden appearance in the lucrative LPGA of Japan Tour.
Saso wound up two strokes behind Watanabe. But her effort more than underscored her readiness to go big-time after a brilliant amateur career that included a World Junior Girls Championship in 2016, a Girls Junior PGA Championship in 2019, two victories in the Philippine pro circuit and a third place finish in the inaugural Augusta Women’s Amateur, also last year.
Watanabe birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to match Suzuki’s closing 68 and force a playoff at 277. Then the former birdied the first extra hole to snare the crown in the first LPGA of Japan Tour event in four months following the coronavirus pandemic.
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Tanaka, who held a three-shot lead in the middle rounds, wilted under pressure and crumbled with a 73, dropping to joint third with Miki Sakai at 278.
Saso stunned the elite field by sharing the top spot with a solid 66 Thursday but lost her touch in the second round and tumbled off the leaderboard with a 74. She hardly recovered with a third-round 71 but came out strong from the one-day delay with two birdies in the first five holes.
She fell back again with a bogey on No. 6 but slowly wheeled back into contention with a birdie on the eighth and another pair on Nos. 15 and 17 as the pacesetters failed to pull away with scrambling rounds in a pressure-packed finish in the $2.1 million event.
Others who finished at 279 were Erica Hara (67), Mao Nozawa (68), Momoko Osato (69) and Mao Saigo (71).
Saso’s finish will surely boost her confidence for the Samantha Thavasa & GMP Internet Girls Collection Ladies tournament on July 17-19 in Ibaraki, and 10 more tournaments lined up over the next three months.
Date: June 30, 2020 | By: Dante Navarro | Newspaper: Philippine Star | Source: https://www.philstar.com/sports/2020/06/30/2024540/saso-instant-millionaire/amp/