Tokyo Olympics veteran Yuka Saso displayed her old deadly form as she fired a bogey-free performance of six-under par 65 in the second round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Saturday (Sunday in Manila) at the Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Northwest Arkansas.
The 20-year-old Filipino-Japanese collected a total of six birdies that put her in contention for a second title in the LPGA Tour after a breakthrough win last July in the US Open Women’s Championship.
Saso, a double gold medalist in the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, birdied on holes 5, 7, 8, 11, 12 and 18. She now holds a two-day aggregate score of 134 or eight-under par for the $2.3 million event.
She is tied with nine other players.
Also at eight-under are Americans Danielle Kang, Jackie Stoelting, Dana Finkelstein and defending champion Austin Ernst, Moriya Jutanagurn of Thailand, South Korea’s Jin Young Ko and A Lim Kim, Klara Spilkova of Czech Republic, and Katherine Kirk of Australia.
Saso and the nine other golfers share ninth to 18th places – four shots behind the leaders.
Now on top of the leaderboard are Minjee Lee of Australia and Nasa Hataoka of Japan, as the former shot a 63 in the second round while the latter had a second straight 65 for similar scores of 130.
Lee and Hataoka, who lost to Saso in a three-hole playoff in the US Women’s Open, enjoy a one-shot lead on Korean Eun-Hee Ji, who is at solo third at 131 as she followed up her 63 with a 68.
Tied for fourth to fifth at 132 are Jeongeun Lee6 of South Korea and Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, while Americans Jennifer Kupcho and Sarah Burnham share sixth to eighth with Thai Pajaree Anannarukarn at 133.
The 54-hole, three-day tournament is the first for Saso – a recipient twice of the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) – in almost a month after she placed 39th in the 2021 Women’s British Open in Scotland.
Fellow Filipinos Bianca Pagdanganan and Dottie Ardina both recovered from opening round struggles with better performances to also make the cut as the former had a six-under par 65, while the latter finished with a two-under par 69.
The two are tied for 66th to 87th places at 141 or one-under for the tournament.
The 23-year-old Pagdanganan, a teammate of Saso with the gold medal winning women’s national team during the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, highlighted her round with an eagle in the par-5 7, and also had six birdies and a pair of bogeys.
The 27-year-old Ardina, on the other hand, made three birdies including the last two holes and made a bogey 13.