Yuka Saso's JLPGA sweep bid gets boost
Yuka Saso of the Philippines plays her shot from the sixth tee during the final round of the 75th U.S. Women's Open Championship at Champions Golf Club Cypress Creek Course on Dec. 13, 2020 in Houston, Texas.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Yuka Saso's JLPGA sweep bid gets boost

Dante Navarro (Philstar.com) - December 24, 2020 - 3:23pm

MANILA, Philippines — Yuka Saso will have one full season to work on her bid for a sweep of the Player of the Year and money ranking honors in the LPGA of Japan Tour after the JLPGA decided to integrate the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

This, after the region’s premier ladies circuit held just 14 of the scheduled 37 tournaments for 2020 due to the global health crisis with Saso, who has dominated the money race following her breakthrough back-to-back victories in the NEC Karuizawa and Nitori Ladies last August, yielding the lead in the POTY derby to local ace Ayaka Furue on a faltering campaign towards the end of the shortened season.

The 19-year-old ICTSI-backed rookie missed the cut twice in the last five tournaments and ended up second with 1,258.85 points to Furue’s 1,371.78 points.

But the recent JLPGA announcement kept the Fil-Japanese shotmaker in the hunt for the top two honors although with a full calendar laid out, a slew of other bidders also bolstered their respective chances for the coveted twin crowns.

That should make the 2021 season doubly interesting with 38 money-rich events on tap, beginning with the  Y120 million (P55 million) Daikin Orchid golf tournament on March 4-7 at the Ryukyu Golf Club in Okinawa Prefecture.

“The JLPGA has decided that it is appropriate to hold the holding method in which 2020 and 2021 are combined into one season,” said the JLPGA in a statement. “In order to create a prize ranking and a Mercedes (Player of the Year) ranking that reflect the overall ability of the players, we decided that 2020 should be combined into one season in 2021."

Saso leads the money race with Y93,891,170 (P43.5 million) in earnings but Furue, a three-leg winner, is just behind with Y90,502,992 followed by Erika Hara with Y70,722,208.

Three other events are scheduled in March 2021 with five tournaments on tap in April, keeping the JLPGA campaigners busy although most are expected to skip some events to keep pace with the gruelling schedule.

Two Y120 million championships will be played in May, including the World Ladies Championship in Ibaraki, while two Y150 million events are featured in June, including the Suntory Ladies in Hyogo.

The richest event, the Y300 million Earth Mondahmin Cup, which Ayaka Watanabe ruled in 2020 and where Saso marked her debut with a joint fifth place finish, will he held June 24-27 in Chiba.

Meanwhile, Princess Superal is also gearing up for the resumption of her campaign held back by travel restrictions in the Japan Step-Up Tour, also set to begin in March in Fukuoka.

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