LAGUNA – Sung Hyun Park double her overnight lead to four shots behind a six-under 66 but amateur Yuka Saso stayed within reach with her own superb game in the second round of The Country Club Ladies Invitational on Thursday.
While Park’s bogey-free 32-34 card fashioned out in another hot, windy conditions hardly came as a surprise for a growing gallery, Saso continued to impress with a 68 spiked by late birdies at the front of the daunting TCC layout.
The world No. 1 was quick to master the 6461-yard layout, gunning down birdies on Nos. 10 and 15 and sustaining her assault at the front of the Tom Weiskoph layout to finish at nine-under 135 through 36 holes.
“Putting was the key. I stroked them better than the first round. I made a few adjustments and it worked perfectly,” said Park, whose impeccable iron game set up five birdie putts from close range that went with her long birdie putt from 25 feet on the difficult, tight par-4 No. 4.
That put two-time major champion 18 holes away from marking her rise to the world top ranking with a victory although Saso remained hopeful of pulling off a shock final round charge given her equally fierce form.
"She's really good. She made some great shots today," said Park of the reigning Asian Games gold medalist.
“I had to keep up with her (Park). Otherwise, she would’ve pulled away,” said Saso, who chipped in for birdie from 20 yards on No. 11 then nearly matched Park’s fiery frontside finish with a 33, anchored on back-to-back birdies inside nine feet from Nos. 1 and 7.
She braces for a third straight face-off with the six-time LPGA Tour winner in Friday's final round of the 54-hole championship serving as the third leg of the LPGA of Taiwan and fifth stop of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour’s 2018-19 season.
“It’s been wonderful playing with her. I hope to further learn from her,” said Saso.
But while the reigning two-time Philippine Ladies Open champion stayed at second, LPGA campaigner Dottie Ardina hobbled trying to offset Park and Saso’s power, ending up with three bogeys against a birdie for a 74. She stood in joint fourth at 146 with Korean Lee Ji Hyeon, who shot a 71, but now 11 strokes off the Korean.
Princess Superal, four down at the start of the day, tried to press her bid with a 35 at the back but lost her momentum, finishing with two bogeys against a birdie at the front for a 72 for a 145 for third.
Tzu Chi Lin of Taiwan bombed out with a 77 after a 71 for a 148 while Pauline del Rosario skied to a 77 for joint seventh at 150 with Thai Nattagate Nimitpongkul, who rallied with a 71, and Hsin Lee of Taiwan, who limped with a 76.