Slumping Saso misses cut for first time
Yuka Saso
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Slumping Saso misses cut for first time
Dante Navarro ( - October 31, 2020 - 3:27pm

MANILA, Philippines — Yuka Saso’s nine consecutive cuts made on the LPGA of Japan Tour came to an end Saturday when she wobbled with a 75 and failed to advance in the Hisako Higuchi Mitsubishi Electric Ladies golf tournament still led by Minami Katsu in Saitama Prefecture.

Not even a final hole birdie on the ninth could save the day for the 19-year-old Fil-Japanese, whose game somewhat took a downswing after scoring back-to-back victories in the NEC Karuizawa and Nitori Ladies last August following a joint fifth place effort in her maiden event, the Earth Mondahmin Cup, last June.

Though she made the cut in her next six tournaments and led the money race, she never figured in the title chase, her joint eighth place in Descent Tokai Classic last Sept. proving to be her best.

Counting her wind-blown opening 74 at the hilly Musashigaoka Golf Course in Hanno City, Saso wound up with a five-over 149 for joint 65th with only the top 50-plus ties (146) advancing to the final round of the Y80 million, 54-hole tournament.

It was a sorry campaign for the ICTSI-backed Saso, who had looked forward to a strong showing following a two-week break with the event likewise serving as tune-up for next week’s JLPGA third major, the TOTO Japan Classic at the Taiheiyo Club Minori Golf Course in Ibaraki Prefecture which offers a total prize fund of Y160 million purse.

2019 British Women’s Open winner Hinaku Shibuno also missed the cut in her JLPGA return, matching Saso’s output after a 77. Shibuno also failed to advance in her only other JLPGA event this year, the Earth Mondahmin Cup last June before campaigning in the US.

Katsu bucked tough conditions and fired a second 67, spiked by a three-birdie string from No. 11, as she assembled a 10-under 134 and pulled away over 2016 champion Shin Jie by five. Jie carded a 71 and remained at second with a 139 while Yuna Nishimura and Miyuu Yamashita pooled identical 140s after a pair of 71s.

The rest of the fancied bets all advanced but stood too far off Katsu, including LPGA veteran Momoko Ueda (73-142), Stanley Ladies champion Mone Inami (71-143), Ayaka Watanabe (75-144), Golf5 Ladies winner and Player of the Year frontrunner Sakura Koiwai (73-145), last year’s champion Ai Suzuki (73-145), Ayaka Furue (71-146) and Japan Women’s Open titlist Erika Hara (70-146).

Starting off at the backside, Saso bogeyed the first two holes and spent the rest of the windy day trying to re-discover her touch and regain her rhythm – to no avail.

After a run of pars marred by a couple of flubbed birdie chances, she dropped another stroke on the par-3 No. 4, birdied No. 6 but bogeyed the next two before closing out with a birdie on the par-5 No. 9.

Over in the Symetra Tour, Dottie Ardina matched par 72 and moved to joint 18th as Clariss Guce continued to flounder after three rounds of the Carolina Golf Classic controlled by Slovenia’s Ana Belac at Pinehurst No. 9 course in North Carolina Saturday.

Ardina hit all but two fairways but struggled with her irons, missing eight greens although she made up for the struggle with superb putting, finishing with 28 for a one-birdie, one-bogey round and a 220 total.

Though she improved 10 spots better from the previous round, the ICTSI-backed shotmaker fell 13 strokes behind Belac, who all but secured her maiden win with a huge six-shot lead over American Lauren Coughlin heading to the final 18 holes of the four-day championship serving as the penultimate event in the pandemic-shortened season.

The final tournament, the Symetra Tour Championship, will be played November 3-6 in Davidson, also in North Carolina.
Belac shot a 70 for a 207 while Coughlin fired a 69 for a 213 with Marissa Steen, Taylor Totland and Karen Chung, all from the US, pooling identical 214s on a 69, 70 and 71, respectively.

Guce, meanwhile, turned in her worst round of 82 marred by two double bogeys and six bogeys in a 39-43 birdie-less card. Just two shots off the pace in the first round, the US-based Filipina tumbled to joint 42nd at 225.

Fil-Am Demi Runas likewise limped with a 77 for a 226.

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