Rookie Yuka Saso rediscovered her deadly form, firing a six-under 65 to forge a three-way tie for the lead at the start of the Daio Paper Elleair Ladies Open in Ehime Prefecture on Thursday.
The 19-year-old Filipino-Japanese hinted of good things to come when she tamed the backside of the par-71 Elleair Golf Club Matsuyama with four straight birdies to draw level with Yuna Nishimura and Ayaka Furue in the event serving as the penultimate leg of the pandemic-hit LPGA of Japan Tour season
The three were three shots ahead of 2018 champion Minami Katsu, Lee Bo-Mee, Anna Kono, Lee Min-Young, Erika Kikuchi, Ji Hee Lee, two-leg winner Shin Jie and Shibuno.
A pitiful sight in last week’s Itoen Ladies tournament where she failed to make the weekend contest, Saso nailed her fifth birdie on No. 4 before closing out another birdie on the par-5 ninth for a 33-32.
Saso is looking to add the Y100 million championship to her earlier wins in the NEC Karuizawa and Nitori Ladies.
The course hosted last year’s Japan Women’s Amateur Open where Saso wound up tied for 26th.
“But it was summer last year and the appearance (of the course) has changed. There are ups and downs and I had to be careful of the OB (out-of-bounds) since the fairways are narrow,” said Saso, who finished runner-up to Korean Shin Jie in Toto Classic two weeks ago after missing the cut in the Mitsubishi Electric the previous week that ended a remarkable run of nine consecutive cuts made.
Her terrific start came a day after she secured a slot in the LPGA Tour’s final major, the US Women’s Open, slated Dec. 10-13 at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas.
Sakura Koiwai, Saso’s rival for the Player of the Year, managed only a 70.
The other fancied bets struggled with Ai Suzuki ending up with a 71 for joint 22nd with Earth Mondahmin Cup winner Ayaka Watanabe.