ANOTHER tournament, another victory for the Philippines’ Yuka Saso.
Showing nerves of steel, Saso weathered a furious challenge by Japanese Sakura Koiwai to win the 2020 Nitori Ladies golf tournament at the Otaru Country Club in Hokkaido, Japan on Sunday.
The winning margin was two strokes for the 19-year-old Filipino-Japanese, who closed out with a one-under par 71 in difficult conditions to score her second straight title in three starts in the lucrative Japan Ladies Professional Golf Association tour.
Saso finished 72 holes on 13-under and earned 36 million yen (about P16.5 million) from the total purse of 200 million yen.
Counting her other winnings in the last two JLPGA event, Saso now has collected P27.5 million in just three appearances.
The reigning Asian Games champion surrendered the lead after dropping two shots in the par-4 second hole, but quickly restored the lead with a run of four birdies from the third to ninth holes.
Koiwai, a 22-year-old golfer from Hokkaido, bogeyed 3 but kept Saso within arm’s length with three birdies.
Both players made the turn at two-under par 34.
Saso and Koiwai bogeyed 11, but the young Filipina birdied 12 to go 2-up.
With tension mounting, both players bogeyed 15 and Saso increased the lead to three when Koiwai bogeyed 16.
The Japanese, however, was not ready to give up easily by producing a birdie on 17 to cut the deficit to two.
Koiwai finished the round with even par 72 for 11-under overall.
The rest of the field was too far behind to mount a challenge.
Three players tied for third on 3-under — Yu Hamada (76), Mikashima (71) and Lee Chihime (74).
Bunched on 2 under were Shiho Oyama (74) and Ariemura Chie (76).
Meanwhile, Bianca Pagdanganan bucked two late bogeys to card a three-under par 68 Saturday (Sunday, PH tome) and make the cut in the Walmart NW Arkansas championship at the Pinnacle Country Cliub in Rogers, Arkansas.
Pagdanganan, 22, got off to a big start with four birdies in the first nine holes and added one more on 5 to go five-under. But she stumbled with bogeys on 16 and 18 to finish 36 holes on 4-under, 12 shots behind solo leader Anna Nordqvist of Sweden who fired a 62.
“I’m going to have fun out there and try to go low or post a good score,” Pagdanganan , who has so far made the cuts in all LPGA events she competed in, told veteran golf writer Rey Bancod of Tribune Golf.
The reigning Southeast Asian Games champion said she hit more greens and made some birdie putts, including a par of 15-footers on 16 and 17.
The rest of her birdies came from inside five feet.