YUKA SASO remained victim to the JFE Setonaikai Golf Club course’s par-five holes but with some stroke of luck, a two-under 70 in the second round of the Japan Ladies Professional Golfers Association Konica Minolta Championship on Friday pushed her two strokes behind new leader Hee Kyung Bae.
The 19-year-old Saso set blistering pace with three straight birdies she capped with a birdie-4 at No. 6, but faltered with a bogey-6 at No. 9.
That bogey slowed the reigning Asian Games champion down as she managed a lone birdie coming home at the 14th hole.
Then came the par-5 18th which she again bogeyed to settle for nines of 36-36, par for the Okayama course but two shots off Bae, who is out for vindication after missing the cut at the NItori Ladies and Golf5 Ladies.
Bae, 28, carded a 67 for a 136 total to catapult herself atop the leaderboard, highlighting her round with six birdies stained by a lone bogey-5 at No. 12.
First round joint leaders Min-Young Lee and Serena Aoki yielded to the conditions made tough by rain in morning play.
Ayako Kimura grabbed the lead at 9-under overall with a birdie on No. 12 but the veteran who tied for 40th in the same tournament last year, bogeyed three of the next four holes and blew a four-foot birdie bid on the 18th.
Kimura closed out with a 71 to fall to joint second at 138 with the International Container Terminal Services Inc.-backed Saso, Rieru Shibusawa (66), Sayaka Takahashi (68) and Yuna Nishimura (68).
Teresa Lu, the 2015 champion, matched par 72 for a 139 to tie Hikari Tanabe (70), Momo Yoshikawa (68), Saki Nagamine (70) and last week’s Golf5 Ladies champion Sakura Koiwai (71).
Bae, who hit just two fairways but still shot a 69 in the first round, rebounded with a scorching long game, nailing three birdies in the last five holes in a backside start. She sank two more birdies in the last four holes at the front to wrest control in the ¥200 million tournament that serves as the Tour’s first major championship.
The frontrunners, however, have to contend with a slew of chasers who stood two or three strokes behind—and several fancied bets staying within striking distance.
The champion on Sunday will bank ¥36 million.