Saso upbeat as T-of-C kicks off LPGA Tour wars

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Saso upbeat as T-of-C kicks off LPGA Tour wars
Yuka Saso reacts after putting on the 11th hole during the second round of the Cognizant Founders Cup at Mountain Ridge Country Club on October 08, 2021 in West Caldwell, New Jersey.
Sarah Stier / Getty Images / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — Yuka Saso looks to turn excitement into something inspiring as she goes all-out for a strong start in the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Championship unwrapping Thursday at the Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Florida.

Saso, who scored a major breakthrough in the US Women’s Open in 2021, is among the 29 LPGA Tour winners the last two years aiming to start the season on a winning note with the elite cast spiced up by a merry mix of celebrity participants, including those from the sporting world.

Saso placed sixth in this fun but highly competitive tournament last year ruled by Danielle Kang but after following up with a third place effort in the Gainbridge LPGA, things went on a downswing for the Fil-Japanese ace, whose campaign is backed by ICTSI.

Though she finished runner-up in the Mediheal Championship late in the year, Saso struggled majority of the season, missing the cut seven times in 26 tournaments to finish at No. 28 in the Race to CME Globe Season and No. 33 in the current world rankings after a career-high No. 8 in Oct. 2021.

But 2023 brings new hopes for the former spearhead of many national teams, who made a brief stop in Manila during the holidays to renew ties and sign up with Federal Land, Inc.

“I’m very excited,” said Saso.

So are the rest of the stellar field, including world No. 2 Nelly Korda, former world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, Nasa Hataoka, Patty Tavanakit, sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn, Ayaka Furue, Jennifer Kupcho, Henderson and Kang, among others.

“I guess you get a little bit of extra confidence because you see your face everywhere all of a sudden and everything is good memories. So I think that does help, in golf especially. Sometimes you know you can make a putt, but that extra confidence helps you make it,” said Kang, who beat Henderson by three last year. “I think you do have an edge, but it's different conditions, different course, different year. You still have to play good golf. But I feel really good about it and I'm excited.”

Meanwhile, Saso and the world’s best head to Southeast Asia next month for a two-leg swing, including the Honda LPGA Thailand on Feb. 23-26, and the Women’s World Championship in Singapore on March 2-5.

China will host the next stop on March 9-12 for the Blue Bay LPGA before the tour heads back to the US for the LPGA Drive On Championship on March 23-26 in Arizona.

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