Yuka Saso hopes to cash in on good form and an early start as she kicks off her drive for a second straight championship in the Champion Philippine Ladies Amateur Open.
But although booming with confidence, Saso has to contend against a field teeming with talent at the Manila Golf and Country Club inside Forbes Park.
The Asian Games gold medalist shot a two-under card in Monday’s practice round which she expects to better after drawing an early start at 7:30 a.m. on No. 1 with Nanako Inagaki of Japan, Gia Feliciano of the United States and Thai Yosita Khawnuna.
Emphasis will be on shotmaking and putting with Saso tipped to lead the assault on the well-kept layout making its return as host of the country’s premier championship which drew a cast of 94 players, including 31 from Taiwan, six each from Singapore and the US, four from Korea, three each from Australia and Thailand and two from Japan.
“The greens are tough and I think it will all boil down to putting,” said Saso, who spent the rest of yesterday’s practice day polishing her stroke in a bid to contend again.
The 17-year-old Saso spearheads the bid of the big 39-player local side out to extend its win run to four after Princess Superal broke Thailand’s three-year reign with a victory at Tagaytay Midlands in 2016. Bianca Pagdanganan topped the 2017 edition at Wack Wack before Saso rallied to beat Mikha Fortuna by two at the Orchard last year.
That victory somehow portended the coming of a big year for Saso, who went on to snare the gold medal while powering the Philippines to the team championship in the Asian Games in Jakarta.
That makes her the player to beat in the 54-hole championship presented by Champion and sponsored by Hana Shampoo, EVA Air, San Miguel Corp. and Diamond Motor Corp. although the Fil-Japanese remains wary of the field, which teems with enormous talents, including the troika of young Thais in Yosita Khawnuna and Natthakritta Vongtaveelap and Chanettee Wannasaen,
The Taiwanese are also all geared up for a crack at the crown with Sung You-Chuan, Chiang Su-Er and Lee Shu Fen hoping for a strong start and a stronger finish.
Koreans Park Eun Suk and Lim Mi Jin also seek to crowd the favorites and duplicate compatriot Lee Jeong Hwa’s title feat in 2012, while Japanese Airi Mitsuhashi and Ikuko Kito also expect to figure in the title chase along with locals Nicole Abelar, Sunshine Baraquiel, Laia Barro, Sophia Blanco, Annyka Cayabyab, Laurea Duque, Sophia Legaspi, Pamela Mariano, Kayla Nocum, Rafaela Singson, Eagle Ace Superal and Rianne Malixi.