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Sports

Saso, Pagdanganan tee off vs world’s finest

Nelson Beltran - The Philippine Star
Saso, Pagdanganan tee off vs worldâs finest
Yuka Saso
STAR / File

TOKYO – Yuka Saso launches her Olympic quest in an exciting showdown right away, with the US Open champ being paired with LPGA stars Lexi Thompson and Brooke Henderson in the 8:25 a.m. flight in the opening round tomorrow of the keenly awaited women’s golf competition.

It would remind of Saso’s triumphant final-round assault in the US Women’s Open where she erased Thompson’s five-stroke lead before beating Japanese Nasa Hataoka in a dramatic sudden death.

Bianca Pagdanganan is three groups ahead with Leona Maguire and Matilda Castren – also among the solid flights to start what could be a mad, mad rumble amidst the tough challenges at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.

The field features the cream of the crop in the LPGA tour including Koreans Inbee Park and Ko Jin, young Japanese Nasa Hataoka and Inami Mone, Americans Thompson and Nelly Korda, Canada’s Henderson and Alena Sharp, Swedes Anna Nordqvist and Madelene Sagstrom and many more.

Then there’s the Filipina duo that is as raring as anyone to bang away amidst all the challenges offered by the Olympic golf for one of the most coveted gold medals in offer in the closing days of the Tokyo Games.

“I don’t know how much more excited I could be than very excited,” said Pagdanganan in an lpga.com report.

“I made it a goal of mine to represent the Philippines when they brought golf back in 2016. I just didn’t think I’d be able to reach it this quick especially since I wasn’t even a part of the Rolex Rankings,” she added.

Being the reigning US Women’s Open champ and a two-tleg titlist in the Japan Tour, Saso is among those considered as the golfers to watch.

But she won’t rely on her previous performances to guide her through her first Summer Games, choosing to instead glean what she can from the talent pool that will be around her.

“I think it will be a different experience compared to majors because I never really thought or watched golf in the Olympics. I watched Rio,” said Saso. “But I think it’s a good chance to meet different athletes from different countries and learn from them, too.”

The Pinay golfers are among the brightest medal hopes of Team Philippines, with their skills, talent and experience.

Before her big triumphs in the Japan Tour and in the LPGA, Saso had produced a double-gold for the Philippines in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.

Pagdanganan was part of the Philippine champion team in the 2018 Asiad and had her version of a double-gold (team and individual) in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Luisita.

YUKA SASO
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