Saso in danger of missing the cut with 76

The so-called Friday the 13th proved ominous for Yuka Saso as the Fil-Japanese ace limped home with a four-over 76 at start of the Itoen Ladies golf tournament at the Great Island Club course in Chiba, Japan. 

It was Saso’s worst start in 11 tournaments in the LPGA of Japan Tour, leaving her in joint 84th in the 96-player starting field – 11 strokes off Kim Ha Neul of Korea.

She was expected to figure prominently following a vibrant bogey-free 63 to snatch second place in last Sunday’s Toto Classic won by Korean Shin Jie in Ibaraki.

But Saso found the long layout not to her liking as she bogeyed second and third holes that somehow disheartened her in the Y100 million event.

Though she closed out the frontside with a birdie-bogey-birdie run for a 37, she bogeyed the 10th and was never the same again as she dropped strokes on Nos. 16 and 17 for a 39.

Known for being a power hitter, Saso failed to birdie any of the four par-5s. It was also her second 76 in the JLPGA.

In all, only 48 broke par in demanding conditions with Kim coming through with a 65 to lead by two over local bets Aoi Onishi, Mizutsuki Oide and Mika Miyazato, who carded identical 67s.

Kim gunned down four birdies in an impressive backside start then added three more in the last nine holes for a bogey-free 33-32.

Seven others shot 68s, including Na-Ri Lee, Yoko Maeda, Hikaru Yoshimoto, Lee Min-Young, Yoon Chae Young, Nana Suganuma and Ayako Kimura, while Ayaka Furue and Mamiko Higa led the 69s scorers and defending champion Ai Suzuki and world No. 15 Hinako Shibuno fired similar 70s for joint 20th with 10 others in the 54-hole championship where the top 50 plus ties after two rounds will advance to Sunday's finale.