I am extremely happy for Yuka Saso. But a bit sad as well.
One can’t just shoot two straight 64s on a par-72 in two successive days. In golf, it’s hardest to repeat a good shot, more so a brilliant round. But Yuka did just that.
She made me leap for joy. Why? Because with those 64s, she held last week’s lead in the LPGA’s Lotte Golf Championship in Oahu, Hawaii.
With a thoroughbred-like start like that from the starting blocks, you’d think, almost, that Saso would hit the breakthrough win on gold’s grand ground.
Not quite. Golf reared its ugly head: A tease. On Yuka.
After starting her third round with three bogeys on her first five holes, a bumpy road hounded her the rest of the way.
In golf, the mind goes first—always.
The three-bogey start became four bogeys on her first eight holes.
She was lucky to finish with a 71? Not quite. She dropped to third behind—watch out—Lydia Ko.
Remember Ko? She was the Korean-born New Zealander, the golf prodigy who won 14 LPGA titles as a teenager.
Now 23, Ko entered the Lotte event after closing out the week before in a tournament with a 62, the lowest final-round ever in LPGA history.
The headlines screamed, “Lydia Ko is back!” So very true.
After a third-round 65 on seven birdies, Ko wound up with another 65 to win by seven easy shots—her 16th Tour title.
That sort of ended a 1,084-day victory drought for Ko since her last win on April 29, 2018, in the Mediheal Championship.
“It was like I’m riding with history,” said Ko, referring to Jordan Spieth’s Texas Open win earlier after a slump of 1,351 days, and Hideki Matsuyama’s Masters victory last week after a winless streak of 1,344 days.
History also seemed still on Saso’s side with a front-nine 34 in Round 4. But a double-bogey on 13 drowned all hopes—the fire in her heart somewhat snuffed.
Saso salvaged a final-round 70—good for a sixth-place tie. It was worth P2.6 million, another cash windfall, anytime.
However, I would have hollered hallelujah to high heavens had Saso clinched the achievable win. As I said, her blistering back-to-back 64s were title-triggers too hard to ignore.
“She is young,” said George Blaylock, Saso’s mentor. “She’ll learn from this.”