Los Angeles—Philippine pride and Asian Games gold medalist Yuka Saso shot a 2-under par 69, just two behind American Amy Olson at the start of the the US Women’s Open Friday morning (Manila time).
The 19-year-old Saso, the money-leader in the recent LPGA of Japan Tour with winnings of Y93,891,170 or P43,350,001, momentarily held halfway lead with four birdies at 4-under, but slowed down in the last nine holes, where she went birdie-less while submitting bogeys on the 11th and 18th holes to find herself tied for fifth along with six others.
Saso’s fellow Filipina and Asiad co-gold medalist Bianca Pagdanganan fired a 1-over 72.
Olson, buoyed by a hole-in-one, grabbed a one-stroke lead in the first round of the US Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas, on Thursday.
The 68th-ranked Olson, who is in search of not only her first major title but her first LPGA crown, fired a four-under par 67 on the Cypress Creek course to hold a narrow lead over Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn, 2019 Women’s British Open champion Hinako Shibuno of Japan and South Korean Kim A-Lim.
Shibuno also played Cypress Creek, one of two in use over the first two rounds, while Moriya and Kim fired their three-under 68s on the par-71 Jackrabbit course.
“I’m definitely pleased with how I played,” Olson said. “I made some really good putts, made a key par save on my 16th hole, hole seven out here.
“I think that was pretty crucial and a nice birdie right on top of that on my 17th hole.”
But the highlight was her ace at the par-three 16th, where she had 141 yards to the pin and went with an eight-iron.
“The wind was kind of coming off my right a little bit and the pin’s on the right. So I hit a little cut to hold the breeze and it was literaily perfect,” said Olson, who threw her arms up and laughed with delight as her ball took a small hop and rolled into the cup.
“It landed two paces short of the flag and had some good spin on it and just trickled in,” Olson said. “We saw the whole thing, which is fun.”
Although coronavirus restrictions meant there was no roar from a crowd, Olson was happy to savor the moment.
“I think it’s important to enjoy the little things, the moments along the way,” said Olson, who had gotten off to a stuttering start with a bogey at her second hole, the 11th but told herself to stay patient.
“There’s birdies out here,” she said, “but you can’t go at every pin.”
She followed up her ace with a birdie at the par-four 17th and added a birdie at the par-four first as she picked up four shots in the space of four holes.
Reigning British Women’s Open champion Sophia Popov of Germany was among a group of seven players sharing fifth place on two-under 69, a group that also included Sweden’s Linnea Strom and Linn Grant, Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit, England’s Charley Hull, American Gerina Piller and Yuka Saso of the Philippines.
The championship rescheduled from June because of the Covid-19 pandemic drew nine of the world’s top 10.
Both world number one Ko Jin-young and South Korean compatriot and defending champion Lee6 Jeong-eun carded opening rounds of two-over 73.
World number two Kim Sei-young, who has a chance to topple Ko from atop the rankings this week, opened with a one-over par 72. AFP