MANILA, Philippines, January 24 ------ Yuka Saso missed posting a Top 5 finish with a shaky windup, ending up with a 70 and a share of sixth in the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Championship ruled by Brooke Henderson in wire-to-wire fashion in Orlando, Florida.
Riding the momentum of her eagle-aided 67 in the third round, Saso reached the par-5 No. 2 in two and drained the putt from long range then shot three birdies against a bogey for a four-under card after 15 holes. But she bogeyed the next two holes to settle for a 34-36 and a four-day total of eight-under 280 worth $56,117. Still, her joint sixth place finish should augur well for her buildup for the LPGA Tour’s two-leg Southeast Asian swing on Feb. 23-26 (Honda LPGA Thailand) in Chonburi and on March 2-5 (Women’s World Championship) in Singapore.
The 2021 US Women’s Open champion, who placed solo sixth in the season-opening T-of-C topped by Daniella Kang last year, failed to hit her target near her home base last year, finishing tied for 12th in Thailand and limping to joint 43rd in Sentosa. She would struggle the rest of the season that saw her miss the cut seven times although she churned out a runner-up finish in Mediheal Championship for her best finish in 26 tournaments. This time, the ICTSI-backed shotmaker expects to rebound strong, eyeing to hit pay dirt again with a positive mindset and more matured game.
But the rest of the Tour big guns have also toughened up, including Henderson, who wrapped up a dominant title run in the $1.7 million championship with a 70 for a four-stroke romp over Swede Maja Stark and England’s Charley Hull. Stepping on the first mound ahead by three over Nelly Korda after 54 holes, the Canadian eased up the pressure with a birdie on No. 2 and after yielding the stroke on the sixth, she dominated two of the next three par-5s to dash her rivals’ hope for a comeback. Korda also birdied the second hole but went on a roller-coaster ride trying to shoot more birdies, netting two but making three bogeys for a 72. She wound up fourth instead at 277.
Stark and Hull matched 69s for 276s while Nasa Hataoka hobbled with a 74 after a 66 and tumbled to fifth at 279. Kang, who beat Henderson by three last year, was never in contention in all four days and finished at joint 12th at 284 after a 74.