Yuka Saso registered a respectable 2-under 69 for a share of 44th place, ending the first round of the 2021 LPGA Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at the Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas on Saturday (Manila time).
The 20-year-old standout is back after more than a month out. She last competed in the AIG Women’s Open, where she ended in t-39th. With that result, Saso zoomed into sixth place in the world rankings.
Saso shook off some rust and started well as she took the backside with three birdies, including back-to-back in Nos. 17 and 18. A solitary bogey in No.12, however, saw her with a 2-under going into the turn.
The reigning US Open champion then found the front nine rather testy. The card she carried from the other side stayed that way – at 2-under – after 18 holes. Saso needed a birdie off No. 7 to cancel out a dropped shot two holes prior.
On the other hand, the two other Filipino golfers Dottie Ardina and Bianca Pagdanganan struggled entirely as they ended up with 1-over 72 and 5over 76, respectively.
The veteran Ardina had a fairly quiet backside with her two birdies at Nos. 11 and 18 negating a huge mishap of a double bogey in No. 16.
However, a roller-coaster of a front nine saw her going from 1-under to 3-over in just four holes. Fortunately, she gained shots from Nos. 7 and 9 for her final card.
The same front nine saw Pagdanganan bungled with three consecutive bogeys off Nos. 2 to 4. A double-bogey at No. 15 and another dropped shot off No. 17 characterized the tour rookie’s tough day, as she could only manage a single birdie to save herself from rock bottom in the standings.
Three players pace the field in this short, 54-hole tournament with South Koreans Ji Eun-hee and Kim A-Lim joining Australia’s Katherine Kirk at the top with 8-under 63. The three all produced a bogey-free round with the 2020 US Open winner Kim getting an eagle off No. 18.
Saso, Ardina, and Pagdanganan look to bounce back as the penultimate round of the tournament is set on Saturday.
The world no. 6 Saso tees off at No. 1 this time at 8:12 a.m. (9:12 p.m., Manila time), while Ardina starts from the same hole four hours later at 12:48 p.m. (1:48 a.m. Saturday). Pagdanganan hopes to turn things around as she rounds up the Filipinos’ day at 1:43 p.m. (2:43 a.m. Saturday) from No, 10.