Yuka Saso just 2 shots behind leader after firing eagle-aided 66 in Florida

Published November 19, 2021, 12:00 PM

by Kristel Satumbaga-Villar

Yuka Saso plays her shot from the third tee during the first round of the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club on November 18, 2021 in Naples, Florida. (AFP)

Yuka Saso fired an eagle-aided 6-under-par 66 and secured a tie for 6th at the start of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida Thursday.

Apart from shooting an eagle on the 17th, the reigning US Women’s Open Champion also gunned down six birdies against a lone bogey on the 10th to tie seven others for 6th to 13th places that included world No. 1 Nelly Korda of the United States.

They’re two shots behind Korean Lee6 Jeong-eun who produced eight birdies for 64 and a one-stroke lead over Americans Mina Harigae and Jennifer Kupcho, France’s Celine Boutier, and Korean Sei Young Kim.

The 72-hole tournament stakes a $5 million total purse.

Saso’s best finish since winning the US Women’s Open win last June was a joint fourth place in the Cognizant Founders Cup and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G.

Still, she remains inside the Top 10 of the world rankings for 23 consecutive weeks with a current ranking of No. 6.

Lee6, the 2019 US Women’s Open champion, hit 14 of 14 fairways in regulation and 18 of 18 greens to put herself in position to achieve her aim of capturing a 2021 title in final event of the season.

“I had a good time today,” she said. “My goal was bogey free, so, I achieved it.

“My goal is to win once this year, unfortunately just one tournament left. I’m going to try my best.”

Harigae’s bogey-free 65 was highlighted by a chip-in eagle at the 17th.

Boutier had seven birdies without a bogey, while Kim had nine birdies and two bogeys and Kupcho nabbed seven birdies to join the group at seven-under. Korda arrived in Naples off a roller coaster win in the Pelican Championship in Sunday.

Now the 23-year-old is seeking a second back-to-back brace of victories this season after winning the Meijer LPGA Classic and Women’s PGA Championship in successive weeks. (With a report from AFP)