Saso seeks top form in lead-off to defense of US Open crown

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Saso seeks top form in lead-off to defense of US Open crown
Yuka Saso of Japan during the first round of the Palos Verdes Championship Presented by Bank of America at Palos Verdes Golf Club on April 28, 2022 in Palos Verdes Estates, California.
Ronald Martinez / Getty Images / AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Running out of time to get back into the groove, Yuka Saso isn’t running out of hopes to find her rhythm back four weeks before her defense of the US Women’s Open crown.

“My results don’t typically impact my mental game. I have gotten good at forgetting it and moving on to the next tournament,” Saso, whose form somewhat took a dip after placing third in the Gainbridge LPGA last January, told Philstar.com.

She missed the cut in the following event, the LPGA Drive On, her first after a 22-tournament straight weekend appearances. She would place no higher than joint 12th — at the Honda LPGA Thailand last March — in her next six LPGA campaigns marred by a joint 56th place finish at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii last April and another missed cut stint in the Palos Verdes Championship three weeks ago.

She has slipped to No. 14 in the latest world rankings.

“I’ve missed two cuts recently, so it has not been the performance I’d hoped for,” admitted the 20-year-old ICTSI-backed ace, who rose to golfing prominence after humbling the best of the best to the win the US Women’s Open diadem via playoff in San Francisco last year.

After failing to make the grade at Palos Verdes, Saso buckled down to work and polished her putting while spending hours at the range, making her A-ready again for the Cognizant Founders Cup firing off Thursday at the Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton, New Jersey.

The $3 million event, which also features the world’s best, serves as her last tune-up tournament before the $10 million US Women’s Open set June 2-5 at the Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, North Carolina.

She will skip the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play event in Las Vegas next week to prepare for her defense of the season’s second major championship.

“I am not playing in Vegas, so this is my last tournament before the US Women’s Open. I’m really excited to defend the title and hope to enjoy my week,” said Saso. ”Right now, I am working on my putting and getting more consistency off the tee. I think those are the two missing piece for me right now that have contributed to the cuts.”

But she stressed there’s no need to tinker with her swing.

“I have not made any recent adjustments to my swing though,” she added.

She brims with confidence as she slugs it out with recent Palos Verdes winner Marina Alex and Allisen Corpuz at 8:10 a.m. at the frontside of the tight par-71 Montclair layout, whose last line of defense is also expected to bedevil the title bidders.

“I feel good about this week and hope to have a great time. I’ve never played this course before but it’s tight and the greens are fast. So, the whole course is in good shape,” she said.

Also in the elite cast are ICTSI teammates Dottie Ardina and Bianca Pagdanganan with the former, who finally ended a long search for a US crown after ruling the Copper Rock Championship of the Epson Tour, the farm league of the LPGA, in Utah last month, drawing Casey Danielson and Mariah Stackhouse at 9:05 a.m. on No. 10.

Pagdanganan, on the other hand, will start late at 1:43 p.m. with Ruixin Liu and Gerina Mendoza, also on the first hole.

Headlining the field is world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, No. 3 Lydia Ko, No. 4 Atthaya Thitikul, No. 5 Minjee Lee, No. 6 Nasa Hataoka, No.9 Lexi Thompson and No. 10 Sei Young Kim.



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