YUKA Saso matched her opening day 70 on Wednesday and broke away from a three-way tie for a three-stroke leadin the Champion Philippine Ladies Amateur Open crown at the Manila Golf and Country Club.
Out to atone for her putting struggle late in the first round where she flubbed five birdie chances inside eight feet that enabled Yosita Khawnuna of Thailand and Mafy Singson to gain a share of the lead, Saso actually failed to hit her scoring target but succeeded to wrest control as her rivals faltered one after the other with over-par scores.
“My putting was good enough but I know I can still be better,” said the reigning Asian Games champion, who birdied the opening hole for the second straight day and added three more on Nos. 7, 9 and 18.
She, however, failed to return a five-footer for par on No. 3 and bogeyed Nos. 4 and 8 on errant drives and missed two birdie opportunities.
But her second one-under card at the par-71 layout proved enough to net her the solo lead at 140 as Khawnuna, 16, cracked under pressure and hobbled with a 73 and slipped to solo second at 143.
Singson, on the other hand, turned from impressive to mediocre as she skied to an 80 and tumbled to joint fifth with Taiwanese Sung You-chuan (74) and Inagaki Nanako of Japan (72) at 150, now 10 strokes behind in the event presented by Champion and sponsored by Hana Shampoo, EVA Air, San Miguel Corp. and Diamond Motor Corp.
Thai Wannasaen Chanattee also shot a 70 for third spot at 144, while Sofia Chabon also had a 70 for fourth spot at 145.
“There will be pressure tomorrow but I would be fine if I can hole in birdies,” said the 17-year-old Fil-Japanese shotmaker.
Unlike Saso, Khawnuna and Singson sputtered when the going got tough with the Thai hitting two birdies against two bogeys and a double bogey and the Filipina bet groping for form all throughout.
“My putting and irons weren’t good,” said Khawnuna, still hopeful of putting it all together in another duel with Saso in the last 18 holes of the event organized and conducted by the Women’s Golf Association of the Philippines.
Natthakritta Vongtaveelap, also from Thailand, fought back with a 73 but still stood too way off at 151 in a tie with Eagle Ace Superal, who carded a 75, while Nicole Abelar shot a 75 for a 152 and Rianne Malixi and last week’s W Express RVF Cup winner Junia Gabasa struggled with identical 78s for 153 and 154, respectively, in the tournament backed by EVA Air, San Miguel Corp., Elmer Ngo, Inquirer, Pascual Laboratories, the National Golf Association of the Philippines and the ladies chapters of Alabang, Forest hills, Tagaytay Highlands, Sta. Elena, Canlubang and Manila Golf clubs with Vermogen, Sports + Action and Sports U channels of ABS-CBN.