Saso zeroes in on US Women's Open drive

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Saso zeroes in on US Women's Open drive
Yuka Saso of Japan reacts after hitting their shot on the 2nd tee during the third round of the Cognizant Founders Cup at Upper Montclair Country Club on May 14, 2022 in Clifton, New Jersey.
Sarah Stier / Getty Images / AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Yuka Saso is skipping this week’s LPGA Match Play event in Las Vegas to focus more on her title-retention drive in the US Women’s Open firing off June 2 in Southern Pines, North Carolina.

While some of her expected rivals, including world No. 4 Minjee Lee, No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul, No. 8 Hyo Joo Kim and No. 11 Danielle Kang, are using the match play as part of their US Open buildup, the 20-year-old Saso is dedicating the break to put herself in a position physically and mentally to play her very best in the world’s premier championship.

She was so immersed that she has avoided distractions leading to the Open week.

“Yuka’s schedule is very packed leading up to the USWO and she will be unable to answer the questions beforehand,” Ayla Berrigan of Sterling Sports Management, which handles the ICTSI-backed shotmaker’s career, told Philstar.com.

High expectations arose after Saso pulled off the major breakthrough via a thrilling sudden death victory over fellow Japanese Nasa Hataoka at the Olympic Club in San Francisco last year. She did turn in four top-five finishes in her next 10 tournaments in 2021 but never really gained a clear crack at a second LPGA trophy.

Still, many had hoped for an explosive 2022 campaign, especially after she opened the season with a sixth place finish in the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions then followed it up with a third place effort in the Gainbridge LPGA, both in Florida.

But she missed the cut in the next event, the LPGA Drive On, also in Florida, ending an impressive run of 22 tournaments where she had played through the weekend. She then struggled and failed to post a top 10 finish in her next seven events, marred by another missed cut stint in Palos Verdes Championship.

But if her last performance in the Founders Cup would be any indication, where she rallied from the brink of early elimination to make the cut and finish tied for 12th in New Jersey two weeks ago, the power-hitting champion could be in for a big outing at the challenging Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club next week.

She has earlier said that her driving has been pretty much okay but hasn’t been producing the desired results, so she’s spending more time on the range to get that consistency and confidence.

She has also stressed the need to work on her putting, which holds the key to major championships.

While her past mediocre results would disquiet most of her fans, Saso said they don’t typically impact her mental game.

“I have gotten good at forgetting them and moving on to the next tournament,” said Saso, who has dropped to No. 15 ranking in the world from a high No. 5 in October last year. “I am really excited to defend the title.”

So do the rest of the best of the best, including world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, the comebacking No. 2 Nelly Korda, Lee, Thitikul, Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Hataoka, Kim, In Bee Park and Sei Young Kim.

Also in the elite US Women’s Open fold are Saso’s teammates in the ICTSI stable Bianca Pagdanganan and Dottie Ardina, who made the grade in the Fort Myers, Florida qualifier.




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