Yuka Saso trails champions’ tourney leader by a stroke | Inquirer Sports

Yuka Saso trails champions’ tourney leader by a stroke

/ 05:10 AM January 22, 2022

Yuka Saso is now being officially
identified as Japanese
by the LPGA Tour. —AFP

MIAMI—Playing the first tournament of her first full season on the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, Yuka Saso, who is now identified as a Japanese, fired a four-under-par 68 on Thursday to trail Mexico’s Gaby Lopez by a shot after the opening round of the season-opening Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club.

The 20-year-old, who ditched Filipino citizenship after representing her country of birth in the Tokyo Olympics last year, holed a 60-yard approach for eagle on the 14th to highlight her round.

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“I’m very thankful I was able to play in this event. That eagle, that was unexpected, but I hit a good shot. Landed probably a foot left of the hole and spun back and went in. I was surprised, but that was really good,” said Saso, the reigning Women’s US Open champion.

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The event features just 29 winners on tour the past two years, and they are all playing with celebrities. Saso, who dropped shots on Nos. 2 and 18, was paired with baseball players Tom Glavine and Jon Lester.

Lopez, the 28-year-old world No. 53 notched birdies on her 16th and 18th holes for a 67 and that one-shot lead over Saso and three others, counting world No. 1 Nelly Korda and Danielle Kang of the United States.

Lone blemish

Lopez’s strong finish completed a solid opening round which begun on the par-72 layout’s par-five 10th hole with a bogey six.

However, that was the lone blemish for Lopez, who went on to reel off three birdies on the front nine before adding three more down the stretch.

“Today was a pretty clean round,” Lopez said. “I think we barely made any mistakes. My caddie and I did a great job with strategy, just being able to attack the pins that we were comfortable with.”

Saso led the field in distance off the tees, averaging 279 yards, while missing just two of 14 fairways. She was also efficient on the greens, needing just 29 putts.

“I wasn’t really expecting anything to go good because this is our first tournament, and I didn’t do much of anything during the offseason. I’m just trying to stay calm and not think about it,” said Saso.

—Reports from AFP and Inquirer Sports Staff
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