Saso falters in late holes

Dante Navarro (The Philippine Star) - November 28, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Yuka Saso succumbed to Miyazaki Country Club’s tough finishing holes, bogeying two of the last five for a second 70 to further slip off the pace in the JLPGA Tour Championship Ricoh Cup in Miyazaki Prefecture yesterday.

Though her 140 aggregate kept her in joint 10th, Saso fell farther back by five strokes behind the unflappable Erika Hara, who fended off a series of threats from the best and the brightest with clutch birdies and unruffled composure.

Chasing a second major after a dominant win in the Japan Women’s Open last month in Fukuoka, Hara outsteadied world No. 15 Hinako Shibuno in a pressure-packed duel in the featured twosome, birdying two of the last six and rescuing a couple of pars, including a delicate five-foot putt on the 18th that netted her a 68 and a two-stroke cushion on a nine-under 135.

Like Saso, Shibuno, who forged ahead at nine-under overall on a brilliant five-under card after 11 holes, bogeyed Nos. 14 and 18 for a 69 and a 137, enabling Ayaka Furue and Yuna Nishimura to join her at second after a pair of day’s best 66s.

Short in length but long in talent, Furue rebounded from an opening 71 and joint 15th to take the clubhouse lead at seven-under on a rare two-eagle feat on Nos. 11 and 13, both par-5s, and a birdie on No. 16. But she bogeyed the 18th for a 35-31 that nevertheless put her on track for a third straight victory after a playoff win in Itoen Ladies and a runaway triumph in Daio Paper Elleair Open the last two weeks.

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