Metro Manila News
Rising to world No. 48, Saso eyes top finish in JLPGA final major
Yuka Saso, despite coming up short again the last time out, continues to move up in the world rankings, gaining a seven-spot jump to No. 48 in the latest Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
And she hopes to use her latest surge as an impetus not only to rebound from her joint third place finish in the Daio Paper Elleair Open but also to close out her maiden LPGA of Japan Tour in style. The region's premier circuit winds up its 14-tournament season in Miyazaki Prefecture for the JLPGA Tour Championship Ricoh Cup beginning Thursday (Nov. 26) at the Miyazaki Country Club.
As the year’s final major, the Y120 million championship offering a whopping Y30 million (roughly P14 million) to the winner features a select field of 37 players made up of the leading players in the current Player of the Year derby and the money list race, this year’s leg winners, those with world rankings and former POTY and money race winners.
Heading the elite cast is last year’s champion Bae Seon Woo of Korea and rising local star Ayaka Furue, 20, whose three victories, including last week’s Daio Paper Elleair Ladies Open where she outplayed Saso in the final round, shoved her past the Fil-Japanese in the race for the coveted POTY (Mercedes Ranking) crown.
Saso said she didn’t play bad in last Sunday’s finale but her putts just wouldn’t sink. A three-putt miscue from 40 feet on the opening hole somewhat portended the coming off a struggling day for the ICTSI-backed shotmaker on Elleair Golf Club Matsuyama’s soft surface as she muffed a couple of birdie chances that derailed her backside charge.
“I had fun in all four days and I hope I can enjoy playing golf as usual,” said the 19-year-old rookie, who despite her joint third place finish had kept the lead in the money race with Y89,253,170. She would need at least a third place finish this week to become the first player to amass Y100 million in just 14 tournaments.
But the NEC Karuizawa and Nitori Ladies winner would rather focus on winning the crown and claiming the Player of the Year honors. With %u202A1048.85%u202C points, Saso is trailing Furue (%u202A1131.78%u202C) by just 82.93 points with the Ricoh Cup staking 400 points to the winner.
“I’m happy to receive it but I’m not doing it for money. I just want to play golf,” said Saso.
Sakura Koiwai also remains in the hunt with 965.84 points.
Meanwhile, Furue, who also snared the Itoen Ladies diadem via playoff the previous week, jumped from No. 30 to No. 16 in the world rankings, making her so confident, so motivated to close out the season with three straight victories.
But Saso is also ready and eager to wrap her maiden season in style, guaranteeing a shootout right from the first shot of the 72-hole event with the likes of Bae, Koiwai, Ai Suzuki, Hinako Shibuno, Minami Katsu, Miki Sakai, Mone Inami, Shin Jie, Momoko Ueda, Saki Nagamine, Yuna Nishimura, Ayaka Watanabe and Erika Hara all fired-up to crowd the young pair for the championship. Jeanne Cortez