Saso ties for 16th as Thai ace triumphs

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Saso ties for 16th as Thai ace triumphs
Yuka Saso
AFP / Yoshi Iwamoto

MANILA, Philippines -- Yuka Saso’s bid for a final-round comeback fell short on the challenging surface of the Siam Country Club’s Old course, setting for a joint 16th place after a 69 in the Honda LPGA Thailand won by local ace Patty Tavatanakit in thrilling fashion in Chonburi Sunday.

Four shots clear of her nearest pursuer after 54 holes, Tavatanakit maintained control with a solid four-under card after 10 holes. But she needed to toughen up in the stretch to thwart a hot-charging Albane Valenzuela, bouncing back from a mishap on No. 15 with two birdies in the last three holes.

She closed out with a 67 and edged the Swiss by one with 21-under 267 total, pocketing the top purse of $255,000, one week after banking a whopping $697,743 in winning the $5 million Saudi Ladies Invitational.

Five shots off Tavatanakit, Valenzuela staged a mighty rally with four birdies and an eagle after 14 holes. She also birdied No. 15 and threatened to within one on a two-shot swing as the Thai bogeyed the par-4 hole.

But Tavatanakit never wavered, birdying the par-3 16th to regain a two-shot cushion. She then foiled Valenzuela’s birdie-birdie windup with her own birdie on the par-5 18th.

Valenzuela finished with a 63 for a 268 while Koreans Sei Young Kim and Hye Jin Choi tied for third at 270 after 65 and 66, respectively.

Saso missed just one fairway and two greens but faced challenges on the greens, missing several birdie chances.

She birdied the first hole for the fourth straight day but failed to rescue a par from the bunker on the next. She resumed her charge with birdies on Nos. 4 and 6 but missed gaining strokes on Nos. 7 and 10, both par-5s, which she dominated in the first three rounds of the $1.7-million championship.

A missed birdie putt from eight feet on No. 11 added to her struggles, resulting in a run of pars until a birdie on the 18th capped her 34-35 round for a four-day total of 275, eight strokes behind Tavatanakit.

The 2021 US Women’s Open champion, whose campaign is sponsored by ICTSI, ended up tied at 16th with Japanese Erika Hara, who carded a 68. Both received $23,123.

Meanwhile, Bianca Pagdanganan, returning to full LPGA status, matched her second round 68 and finished tied for 29th at 279 worth $14,419.
Her round included a promising backside start with four birdies in the first six holes but was tempered by consecutive bogeys from No. 16.

She fought back with three birdies in the next four but made two bogeys against a lone birdie in the last six holes for a 35-33, the last miscue prevented a higher finish.

But the power-hitting Filipina shotmaker, also backed by the world’s leading port operator, hopes to build up on her strong performance as the elite field heads to Singapore for the $1.8-million Women’s World Championship beginning February 29 at the Sentosa Golf Club’s Tanjong course.

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