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Yuka Saso wavers, falls to 3-way tie at 72

Yuka Saso watches her approach shot on the par-5 No. 10 of the Ayala Greenfield Golf and Country Club. Ernie Peñaredondo

CALAMBA, Laguna, Philippines — Amateur Yuka Saso blew a hot three-under card with a wobbly stint in blustery condition midway through the opening round, enabling Thais Thanuttra Boonraksasat and Ploychompoo Wirairungreung to force a three-way tie for the lead at 72 in the ICTSI Ayala Greenfield Ladies Challenge here yesterday.

Saso bounced back strong from an opening hole bogey with four birdies in the next five, including three straight from No. 4, but the reigning national champion failed to sustain her charge in tough condition and closed out her frontside stint with back-to-back bogeys.
She birdied the par-5 No. 10 to go two-under again but dropped strokes on Nos. 11 and 13 before settling for pars for a 35-37 card that nevertheless put her in strong contention for another crack at the pro crown on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.

“The wind blew from all over. It was so strong that I had to make a 3-club adjustment to play it through,” rued Saso, who quickly recovered from a three-putt mishap on No. 1 with that string of birdies but fumbled with missed green bogeys and another three-putt miscue on No. 11.

Boonraksasat actually gained on a two-shot swing with a birdie on the par-5 13th as she saved an even-par card and kept Thailand’s bid for a third straight LPGT crown after Renuka Suksukont and Yupaporn Kawinpakorn swept the last two legs of the record 11-stage 2017 season at The Country Club and South Forbes, respectively.

“I played relatively good except for my putting,” said Boonraksasat, who like Saso had two three-putt bogeys. “The greens are tricky, some are fast, some are slow.”

Wirairungreung birdied the par-5 17th late in the day to match her compatriot’s 37-35 round as the troika posted a two-stroke lead over Pauline del Rosario and another Thai Punpaka Phuntumabamrung after 18 holes of the 52-hole event kicking off the 2018 LPGT season put up by ICTSI.

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“It was really tough out there with the wind. But it’s not yet over and I hope to shoot a better score tomorrow (today),” said del Rosario, fresh from claiming the LPGT Order of Merit title.

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