Korda with firm grip on lead, but Saso not discounting medal finish
KAWAGOE, JAPAN—It’s not going to be easy, but Yuka Saso knows that it can happen. Weather permitting, of course.
Saso knows only a super low final round is the only way to salvage a medal in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics women’s golf event, which American world No. 1 Nelly Korda seems to have a firm grip on the gold after firing a two-under-par 69 on Friday to lead a young lass from India by three at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Saso gave everything she could in an impressive 67, but the reigning Women’s US Open champion ended the day still facing a huge deficit in her bid for a podium finish that she was expected to deliver for Team Philippines.
“I’ve scored super low before to win, but it happens only once in a lifetime,” said Saso, referring to a nine-under 63 made up of an eagle and seven birdies to earn her first professional victory on the Japan Ladies Professional Golf Association last year.
The only thing going for Saso now is that she knows it’s doable.
Best round this week
Despite a first hole bogey, Saso was all business, gunning down five birdies for her best score so far in three days.
Bleak as they are now, the country’s chances for a medal rests on Saso, who was able to barge into the Top 20 with 18 holes remaining. And that is if the final round does see a conclusion on Saturday with a tropical storm forecast.
With a 54-hole, 209 aggregate, Saso stood 11 shots behind Korda, eight behind of India’s Aditi Ashok, who shot a 68, and six off four players occupying the bronze medal spot.
The leaders tee off Saturday’s final round at 8:23 am as organizers hope to complete the full 72 holes before a tropical storm system arrives later in the day.
Should it be not possible to complete the final round on either Saturday and Sunday, then Korda, as the 54-hole leader at 198, would be declared the gold medal winner.
Lydia Ko also barged into medal contention, as the New Zealander, with her 66 now in a pack bunched at third spot with Australian Hannah Green (67), Dane Emily Kristene Pedersen (70) and Mone Inami (68) of Japan.
Could be shortened
Depending on how severe the incoming storm would be on Saturday, Korda and Ashok could have the gold and silver medals secured if the event is reduced to 54 holes. The tee times have been moved forward on Saturday morning as organizers remained hopeful of completing the final round.
“I’d still do my regular routine of going out there on the course and do what I think is right on every hole. In golf, if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen,” said Saso, whose 74 start put her in 47th, but now occupies 20th spot.
The other Philippine bet, Bianca Pagdanganan, was herself hoping that the breaks will finally go her way after bungling a solid start in the third round that saw her getting as close as 12th place when she went five-under overall with three birdies in her first 10 holes.
Pagdanganan ended up with a 71 marred by two double-bogeys on the 11th and 14th and slid two spots from 27th to a tie for 29th at 211.
“It’s kind of tough, because I was hitting a lot of really good shots. Hopefully, I can still bounce back tomorrow and move up the leaderboard just a bit,” said Pagdanganan.
Korda, who started the day with a four-stroke cushion, felt it was a day where she had to battle just to keep a lead. —WITH A REPORT FROM AFP