Saso limps home, falls 5 adrift
Yuka Saso
Photo courtesy of usga.org
Saso limps home, falls 5 adrift
Dante Navarro (Philstar.com) - October 17, 2020 - 7:32pm

MANILA, Philippines — Yuka Saso reeled from a late meltdown that all but ruined her drive for a third Japan LPGA championship, falling five strokes off new leader Saki Asai with a two-over 74 in the second round of the Fujitsu Ladies 2020 in Chiba Prefecture Saturday.

Consistency proved to be Saso’s dilemma in a rain-hit day that practically negated her slight advantage in length as the Tokyu Seven Hundred Club course played longer than its 6659-yardage with its softened fairways with the greenskeepers applying rollers to dry up wet spots in a number of surfaces.

Still, the Fil-Japanese, who went into some kind of a slump after sweeping the NEC Karuizawa and Nitori Ladies crowns last August, found a way to go under early, birdying Nos. 4 and 5, only to yield the strokes with bogeys on the next two for an opening 36.

It was more of the same at the back as she birdied 10th from six feet but bogeyed the next on a flubbed five-footer for par. She gained another stroke on No. 13 from 30 feet out, only to lose it again on the next on a three-putt miscue from 18 feet. Worse, she holed out with a double-bogey on the par-5 16th on a couple of errant hits then parred the last two for that 38 and a 74.

Though she remained at joint seventh with six others, including rival Sakura Koiwai, at even 144, the ICTSI-backed Saso, just two down at the start of the round, dropped five shots behind a surging Asai, who sizzled in wet conditions with a five-under 67 to jump from a share of 25th to the solo lead at 139.

Asia stood a stroke ahead of Korean Shin Jie, who turned in a second 140 to stalk the new leader, who lost in a three-way playoff in last week’s Stanley Ladies, heading to the last 18 holes of the Y100 million event.

Erstwhile frontrunner Bae Seon Woo, also of Korea, likewise struggled in tough conditions and hobbled with a 73 to tumble to third at 141 with Stanley Ladies winner Mone Inami also limping with a 73 for joint fourth with Wakimoto Hana and Jeon Mi-Jeong, who carded 69 and 71, respectively, at 142.

Ranged against Koiwai, who toppled her in the Player of the Year derby two JLPGA legs ago, Saso outplayed the local ace despite a frontside 36 as the latter bogeyed Nos. 8 and 9 for a 38.

But Koiwai, who snapped Saso’s back-to-back title run with a victory in Golf5 Ladies, settled down at the tougher backside, finishing with a one-birdie, one-bogey round to match her rival’s two-over card.

Over in Florida, Dottie Ardina skied to a 78 for a 151 and barely made the cut at 152 in the second round of the Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship of the Symetra Tour still paced by Finnish Matilda Castren (68-136) Friday.

Fil-Am Clariss Guce missed the cut after an 80 for a 156.

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