Yuka Saso, Japanese vet in virtual ‘match play’ in Japan tilt

Published September 17, 2020, 6:19 PM

by Manila Bulletin Sports

yuka saso
Yuka Saso (File Photo)

Yuka Saso and Momoko Ueda try to engage each other in a virtual “match play” when they see action in the Descente Ladies Tokai Classic beginning Friday at the Shinminami Aichi Country Club’s Mihama course in Aichi Prefecture, Japan.

Yuka Yasuda was actually the one scheduled in the featured flight at 8:45 a.m. but she withdrew at the last minute due to neck injury, leaving the current Player of the Year frontrunner going up against the veteran Japanese in the event serving as the sixth leg of the pandemic-shortened season.

Saso, 19, won two of the first five tournaments to emerge the marked player although her last two results were in stark contrast to her title romps in the NEC Karuizawa and Nitori Ladies. She struggled for joint 29th in the Golf5 Ladies and faded in the final round and settled for a share of 13th in the circuit’s first major – the Japan LPGA Championship last week.

But she expects to rebound strong this weekend behind superb ball-striking with the 2018 Asian Games double gold medalist focusing of late on improving her putting and producing more types of short-game shots.

The 34-year-old Ueda, meanwhile, is raring to redeem herself from a tied-for-44th finish last week with the 34-year-old two-time JLPGA winner tipped to use her veteran smarts against Saso’s power and exuberance, guaranteeing a slam-bang face-off between two of the fancied names in the 107-player field.

Still, a slew of other aces are out to spoil the duo’s highly anticipated first day duel, including Saki Nagamine, who sets out right behind Saso and Ueda’s flight with Asuka Kashiwabara and Teresa Lu, also looking for a strong start to fuel her drive for a second straight championship after besting a stellar field to nail her maiden JLPGA victory.

Ai Suzuki, the winningest in the fold with 16 victories, is also expected to be right in the mix in the 8:25 a.m. flight with Erika Hara and Minami Katsu, together with Earth Mondahmin Cup winner Ayaka Watanabe, who kicks off her bid at 8:05 a.m. with Yuting Seki and Fumika Kawagishi.

Suzuki and Watanabe missed the cut last week with both eager to get back into the groove and contend in the event which also serves as tune-up for the second JLPGA major – the Japan Women’s Open – slated Oct. 1-4 in Fukuoka.

Meantime, Bianca Pagdanganan and Dottie Ardina resume their LPGA Tour campaign as they vie in the Cambia Portland Classic at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Oregon starting Friday.