Yuka Saso ended her first round of the 2021 LPGA CME Group Tour Championship on a high note, as an eagle-laced finish saw her at 6-under and in a share of sixth place, Friday morning (Manila time) at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida.
A tough closing stretch pushed Saso out of contention in the recently concluded Pelican Championship. Still, the Filipino-Japanese star remains optimistic heading into the season-ending tournament.
“I want to have fun and trust the process this week to wrap up the season,” she shared. “It has been a great year. My confidence has been steady throughout the season, regardless of what event I was playing.”
Nonetheless, it was a shaky start for Saso as she struggled to gain shots in the first nine holes. At the end of the front nine, the world number 6 could only come up with two birdies for a 2-under 34.
Another hiccup happened at the onset of the backside foray when she needed two extra hits to tackle No. 10. That pushed Saso down to a tie at 47th place among 60 golfers.
The 20-year-old is not a major champion for nothing. She showed that confidence she mentioned in the last stretch of the day.
Saso carved not just one birdie, but a turkey off Nos. 12 to 14 to stake her climb back to the top 20. She then took the par-5 No. 17 in just three shots before a closing birdie summed up her day.
Her flight-mate Lee Jeongeun paced the competition with 8-under 64 – just two strokes ahead of Saso, and just one under Jennifer Kupcho, Celine Boutier, ina Harigae, and Kim Sei Young.
Saso will try to ride on her momentum as she takes the course for the second round at 12:15 PM on Friday (1:15 AM on Saturday, PH time) starting at No. 1.