Yuka wrests solo lead
Yuka Saso drives on the 13th hole
STAR/ File

Yuka wrests solo lead

Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Yuka Saso sustained her sizzling form, shooting a second consecutive eight-under par 64 to seize the solo lead halfway through the LPGA Lotte Championship Thursday in Oahu, Hawaii.

The Fil-Japanese star fired nine birdies against a lone bogey in another impressive display of hitting at Kapolei Golf Club to go 16-under 128 after 36 holes – a new tournament record – and went two-up against former world No. 1 Lydia Ko. Saso broke the previous mark of 15-under 129 posted by Korean Eun-Hee Ji after two rounds in 2019.

A two-time major winner, New Zealand’s Ko sizzled with a bogey-free 63 for a two-round card of 130.

Ko stood alone at second, three clear of Spaniard Luna Sobron Galmes (64), American Nelly Korda (68) and South Koreans Ryu So-yeon (68) and Kim Hyo-joo (65).

“I hit good tee shots today and holed a lot of birdie putts,” said the 19-year-old Saso, who hit 10/14 fairways and 16/18 greens and needed 28 putts in this round.

Ko’s blistering performance in the morning sessions allowed her to wrest the upperhand at 14-under before Saso teed off in the afternoon. The Asian Games champion shared a one-stroke overnight lead with American Brittany Altomare.

Saso started with birdies on Nos. 1 and 3 before dropping one shot on the par-4 fourth hole.

She offset that bogey with a birdie on the No. 5 then racked up successive birdies from Nos. 7 to 10 to catch up with Ko. Saso finally overtook the Kiwi ace by snaking in a long birdie bomb on No. 16 and making a four-foot birdie putt in the next hole.

The Filipina parbuster admitted the wind was “a little bit of a factor” especially in the back nine.

“I don’t really like windy conditions but I’m happy I was able to play good. I’ll just do my best again tomorrow,” she said.

Saso, who’s playing on a sponsor’s exemption, is hunting for her breakthrough crown in the LPGA after two triumphs in the Japan tour.

“I’m just thankful that sponsors are giving me the chance to be here. Whatever the outcome is, I’ll accept it and just enjoy the moment,” she said.

Two other Filipina bets in Bianca Pagdanganan (76-68) and Dottie Ardina (75-70) missed the cut.

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