Yuka Saso reacts after hit a poor wedge shot on No. 9.
Yuka Saso reacts after hit a poor wedge shot on No. 9.
Saso loses fire, falls to 3-way tie
Dante Navarro (philstar.com) - February 19, 2019 - 4:47pm

MANILA, Philippines – Yuka Saso’s scorching start fizzled out on the tricky surface of Manila Golf Club as the reigning Asian Games gold medalist settled for a one-under 70 and a share of the lead with Thai Yosita Khawnuna and Mafy Singson in the Champion Philippine Ladies Amateur Open at the Manila Golf and Country Club in Forbes Park Tuesday.

On fire with an opening hole birdie and a chip-in eagle on No. 4, Saso had thought she had the par-71 layout all figured out until she hit an errant approach shot on No. 8 for bogey and flubbed five birdie putts inside eight feet at the back.

“As I've said, the greens are tough. I could’ve turned in a better round and could’ve taken the solo lead,” said Saso, who banged in a 10-footer for birdie to launch her title-retention drive and hit a superb 60-degree wedge shot from 40 yards that bounced once and rolled into the cup for eagle on the par-5 fourth hole.

But she found MGC’s last line of defense not to her liking at the back, muffing birdie tries on Nos. 13 (8ft), 15 (6ft), 16 (10ft), 17 (12ft) and 18 (5ft) and enabling Khawnuna and Singson to get a shared view of the top, four strokes ahead of Chanetee Wannasaen, also of Thailand. 

“My timing was off at the back and that made it worse. But overall, I am still happy with game," said the 17-year-old Fil-Japanese who rallied in the final day to beat Mikha Fortuna by two in last year’s edition of the annual championship presented by Champion at the Orchard.

“My timing was off at the back and that made it worse. But overall, I am still happy with game," said the 17-year-old Fil-Japanese who rallied in the final day to beat Mikha Fortuna by two in last year’s edition of the annual championship presented by Champion at the Orchard.
Saso’s blistering start also failed to rattle her young Thai flightmate in Khawnuna, who hit three birdies to negate a double bogey mishap on No. 12, while Singson, 15, also gunned down three birdies against two bogeys in a separate flight to gain a piece of the lead in the early going of the event sponsored by Hana Shampoo, EVA Air, San Miguel Corp. and Diamond Motor Corp. and organized and conducted by the Women’s Golf Association of the Philippines.

“The greens are tricky. They’re difficult because they’re slick and undulating. The wind was also a big factor,” said Khawnuna, a 16-year-old rising star from Nakhon Thammarat.

Unlike Saso, Singson had to rebound from a faltering start of two bogeys in the first four holes but charged back with birdies on Nos. 8 and 14 before rolling in a five-footer on the last hole.

“The greens are tough but the wind was relatively fair,” said Singson, bracing for a tough outing against Saso and Khawnuna in Wednesday’s featured flight among the 93 starters where the 30 percent of the lowest scores and ties after the first round qualified in the centerpiece Open division. The rest will be classified into Classes A and B.

Meanwhile, Manila Golf Club president Martin Romualdez, Peerless Products Manufacturing Corp. president Simeon Tiu and MGC ladies chapter head Lorna Tabuena hit the ceremonial drives to formally kick off the 54-hole championship presented by Champion late Monday.

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