Saso puts herself, team in contention for medal
JAKARTA—In rhythm and growing confident by the day, Yuka Saso assembled a three-under-par 69 in the third round of the 18th Asian Games’ women’s golf competition on Saturday and set herself up for a shot at the gold medal while keeping the team in solid contention for a podium finish.
The long-hitting Saso cracked par for the third straight round and will take a 54-hole 209 aggregate into Sunday’s final 18 holes where the pressure will be intense at well-manicured Pondok Indah layout as she tries to overcome a four-stroke deficit and gift the Philippines its first women’s golf medal since 2002.
Saso’s string of sterling individual efforts and the steady output from US NCAA standout Bianca Pagdanganan, who shot a 71 for 140 for the day, put the Philippines in third spot in team play at 10-under, just two strokes out of second-running South Korea but nine behind leader China.
LK Go, whose older brother LJ is also a part of the men’s team, failed to count with a 75.
China’s Liu Wenbo wrested the pace after a 67 for 205 while compatriot Du Mohan was second three shots behind after submitting a 73. Thailand’s Attaya Thitikul is actually tied with Saso after a similar 69.
“I will surely enjoy tomorrow’s round,” Saso, a grizzled international veteran at 18, said after practice at the range.
Japan slid to fourth after a disastrous third round effort, with Ayaka Furue shooting a 74 and Riri Sadoyama accounting for a 73 for 147, nine strokes behind the day-best 138 of the Koreans, who got a 67 from Jeong Yun-ji.
“Stranger things have happened in golf,” non-playing skipper Bones Floro told the Inquirer, when asked if overhauling a nine-stroke deficit in the final 18 holes is achievable. “As long as the players keep their focus and play well, who knows?”
While the women remained on track, the men slipped out of contention, with Wei Wei Gao never recovering from a disastrous start and the team falling to sixth spot, nine strokes out of the bronze medal and 18 off the leading Japanese.
Gao, who started the day just three shots off the individual pace, signed for a triple bogey 7 in his opening hole, dropped two more shots in his next six and had two more bogeys that negated his only two birdies the rest of the way for a 77 to be at level 216 overall.
That put him nine shots out of the lead still being held by Japan’s Keita Nakajima, who shot a 70, even as LJ Go shot a 71 to tie Gao. Rupert Zaragosa fired a 67 to be another shot behind. Luis Castro’s 78 did not count.