Saso cards 68, trails Taiwanese by 3 in Descente Ladies Tokai Classic
Yuka Saso
Saso cards 68, trails Taiwanese by 3 in Descente Ladies Tokai Classic
Dante Navarro ( - September 18, 2020 - 3:20pm

MANILA, Philippines – Multi-titled Ai Suzuki is back with a bang, so did Player of the Year frontrunner Yuka Saso.

But Taiwanese Pei-Ying Tsai quietly worked her way past two of the fancied names in the Descente Ladies Tokai Classic with a blistering bogey-free seven-under 65 to wrest a one-stroke lead in Aichi, Japan Friday.

Tsai, who never finished better than joint 11th in the first five tournaments of the pandemic-shortened LPGA of Japan Tour, bucked the Shinminami Aichi Country Club’s Mihama course’s narrow fairways and menacing water hazards and roughs with a solid iron game then capped her stirring round with a near-impeccable touch on the greens for a 32-33 card.

But she could only wrest a lead so shaky and precarious in a 54-hole championship that featured the region’s best and the brightest as four turned in identical 66s, led by 16-time LPGA of Japan Tour champion Suzuki, another four fired 67s, and five more submitted similar 68s, including Saso, also the money race leader with two victories in her rookie campaign.

Twenty three others from the starting field of 107 broke par in a day of torrid scoring, guaranteeing a wild, wooly chase for the top Y14.4 million purse from the total prize fund of Y80 million.

The 26-year-old Suzuki, out to make up for her missed cut stint in the year’s first major – the JLPGA Championship in Okayama last week, actually tied Tsai on a stirring four-birdie binge from No. 12 but failed to go up-and-down on the par-3 16th and settled for a pair of 33s.

Other six-under par scorers were Saiki Fujita, Ayaka Furue and Kokone Yoshimoto while Mami Fukuda blazed home with five birdies in the last seven holes to shoot a 67 for joint sixth with Naruha Miyata and Miki Sakai, who also birdied four of the last five to crash into the early mix.

Saso, who gained early star status with her impressive victories in the NEC Karuizawa and Nitori Ladies but struggled with joint 29th and tied for 13th finishes in the last two tournaments, flaunted her vaunted long game again, birdying all but one of the four par-5s. She added two more on Nos. 2 and 14 to negate her lone bogey on the ninth for a share of 10th with Rieru Shibusawa, Hiroko Azuma, Mone Inami and Chie Arimura.

The ICTSI-backed ace, 19, also outduelled veteran Momoko Ueda in their face-off with her power game and steady putting as the LPGA Tour campaigner continued to grope for form and hobbled with a double-bogey and two bogeys against a couple of birdies.

Ueda, 34, ended up with a 74 and in danger of missing the cut at joint 83rd.

Meanwhile, Golf5 Ladies winner Sakura Koiwai shot a bogey-less 69 for a share of 15th with nine others, including Serena Aoki, while Earth Mondahmin Cup champion Ayaka Watanabe and JLPGA Championship titlist Saki Nagamine both shot 70s for a share of 25th with 11 others.

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