Yuka Saso eyes second major title in women’s PGA Championship

Yuka Saso (AFP)

Yuka Saso will be aiming for a second major title on US soil when she competes in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship scheduled June 24 to 27 at the Atlanta Athletic Club in John Creek, Georgia.

Fresh from an inspiring comeback victory in the US Women’s Open championship two weeks ago, the 19-year-old Saso will be among the favorites in the $4.5 million event.

Saso, who is being backed by ICTSI, said that her team, which includes her father Masakazu Saso, is still finalizing the schedule for the rest of June until July before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.

“Wala pang exact schedule (of upcoming events prior to the Tokyo Olympics) but outside of it I’m sure of the KPMG championship in Atlanta,” said Saso, who is No. 8 in the women’s world rankings of the International Golf Federation.

Saso became the first Filipina to capture the prestigious and oldest major championship, the US Women’s Open title last June 6 at Lake Course of The Olympic Club in San Francisco, California.

Saso’s victory was one for the books as she came back from two double bogeys early in the final round and fought her way back to tie the lead at the end of 72-hole regulation play.

She defeated Nasa Hataoka of Japan in a three-hole playoff for the title.

By winning the US Women’s Open, Saso matched the championship record previously set by In-bee Park of South Korea as the youngest winner in the tournament history at 19 years, 11 months and 17 days.

Like the US Women’s Open event, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is also considered one of the five major championships in women’s golf.

Last year, South Korea’s Kim Sei-Young won the title and the top prize money of $645,000 – approximately P31 million. Saso pocketed about P48 million when she won the US Women’s Open title.

The said tournament will also be crucial for Saso, a double gold medal winner in the Asian Games in Indonesia back in 2018, as she prepares for her Olympic debut.

The announcement of the 60 golfers – men’s and women’s – will come next week from the IGF based on the world rankings.

Bianca Pagdanganan, another Filipino who is also backed by ICTSI, is also in contention for a spot in the Tokyo Olympics in the women’s category, while veteran Juvic Pagunsan is vying for a slot in the men’s category.

The schedule for the men’s is June 29 to August 1, while the women’s side will be played August 4 to 7 at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kayagoe, Saitama, which is about 30 kilometers outside of Tokyo.

Saso, a two-time Athlete of the Year of the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA), is expected to vie for the gold medal considering her status now in women’s golf, as well as her familiarity of playing in Japan since she is a regular at the Japan LPGA Tour.