Saso blows hot, cold, limps with 74
Yuka Saso
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Saso blows hot, cold, limps with 74
Dante Navarro (Philstar.com) - October 30, 2020 - 2:56pm

MANILA, Philippines – Yuka Saso stumbled big time after a scorching start and scrambled at the finish to salvage a two-over 74, tumbling to joint 51st at the start of the Hisako Higuchi Mitsubishi Electric Ladies golf tournament paced by Minami Katsu in Saitama Prefecture, Japan Friday.

Saso came out smoking after a long break, birdying two of the first three holes of the Musashigaoka Golf Course in Hanno City and sparking hopes for a big start for the 19-year-old Fil-Japanese out to break a two-month slump after scoring back-to-back victories last August.

But just when she thought she had the rolling layout all figured out, she missed the par-3 No. 4 green and failed to go up-and-down, dropped two strokes on the par-4 No. 6 and closed out her frontside stint with back-to-back bogeys.

From near the top of the leaderboard, the money race leader slipped below the middle of the 95-player starting pack. She snapped that string of mishaps with a run of pars at the back then birdied the par-16th for a 39-35 card that dropped her seven strokes behind Katsu, who birdied three of the last five holes to shoot a bogey-free 67.

The 22-year-old Katsu, who finished no higher than tied for 12th in the Fujitsu Ladies two weeks ago in a seven-tournament stint marred by two missed cuts, grabbed a one-shot lead over 2016 champion Shin Jie, who missed forcing a share of the lead with a bogey on No. 17 after an eagle and four birdies against another bogey for a 68.

Other four-under par scorers were Miyuki Takeuchi and Asuka Ishikawa.

Earth Mondahmin Cup winner Ayaka Watanabe outplayed Saso in their early face-off in the Y80 million event, carding a 69 spiked by three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 11. She actually stood at four-under that included a birdie on the opening hole but fell off joint second with a bogey on the closing par-5 18th.

That enabled Mimu Yamashita, Yuna Nishimura, Yoon Chae Young and LPGA veteran Momoko Ueda to gain a share of fifth with their own versions of 69s while eight players, led by Sumika Nakasone and amateur Mayu Sakui, shot 70s.

Fancied Ai Suzuki, the defending champion, and Player of the Year frontrunner Sakura Koiwai matched par 72s for a share of 32nd.

Last year’s British Women’s Open champion Hinako Shibuno marked her return to the LPGA of Japan Tour with a birdie on No. 1 and an ace on No. 8 but bogeyed three of the last eight and fell to the group of Koiwai and Suzuki.

Over in the US, Clariss Guce hobbled in high winds and ended up with a three-over 75, falling six strokes behind Slovenia Ana Belac halfway through the Carolina Golf Classic at Pinehurst No. 9 course in North Carolina Friday.

Guce, 30, lost her rhythm in blustery condition, dropping two strokes right on the par-5 No. 10 where she teed off and made another double bogey and a bogey against two birdies that came few and far between in such adverse setup.

Though her 75 and an opening 68 dropped her to joint fifth at 143, the two-time Symetra Tour winner fell from two to six shots off Belac, who survived the day-long ordeal and escaped with a 71 to stay at the helm with a 137.

She hiked her lead to two over new pursuer Peiyun Chien of Taiwan, who fired the day’s best 68 for a 139 while recent Mission Inn Resort & Club Championship winner Matilda Castren of Finland carded a 70 to join Swede Linnea Johansson, who fumbled with a 73, at third at 142.

Dottie Ardina also limped with a 75 for joint 28th at 148 while Fil-Am Demi Runas skied to a 78 for a share of 39th 149 as the duo made the 60-player cut at 151.

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