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Yuka Saso wrapped up her first event representing Japan, landing at sixth place in the 2022 Hilton Grand Tournament of Champions in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, January 23 (Monday, January 24, Manila time).
The Filipina-Japanese carded a 1-over 73 in the fourth round to finish with a 9-under 279 total in the contest ruled by American star Danielle Kang.
It was a poor final round for Saso considering she fired a 68 in the first and third rounds.
Saso, the first Filipino to win the US Women’s Open, began donning the Japanese colors in the Tournament of Champions after renouncing her Philippine citizenship in November 2021.
Kang scored a 4-under 68 and tallied a 16-under 272 overall to pick up her sixth career LPGA victory as she triumphed with a three-stroke lead over Canadian Brooke Henderson.
Shooting below 70 in all four rounds at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, the 29-year-old resident of Las Vegas fueled her victory with four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine.
“My mental game was really good,” Kang said. “I had a really good attitude all day today and yesterday. I know I left some putts out there, but I never let it get to me and I kept having to give myself birdie chances as much as possible.”
Henderson posted a 70 on Sunday, while Mexican Gaby Lopez shot even-par 72 to finish third at 12-under. French Celine Boutier (71) and world No. 1 Nelly Korda (75) tied for fourth at 10-under 278.
Kang was 1-under through 10 holes before going on her spree.
She posted a birdie on the 11th hole, made par at 12, and then knocked down three straight birdies to move to 17-under. Even a bogey on 16 did not hurt as Kang finished off the win.
“I feel great about a lot of the work that I’ve done,” Kang said. “I’m so thankful for my team. It takes a village to get here, so still feels a little bit surreal. Just trying to kind of take in the moment and go with the flow and see.”
Korda held the third-round lead but had a dismal final round.
Korda had just one birdie while carding four bogeys. Her lone birdie on 15 pushed her to 12-under but there would be no late charge as she bogeyed each of the next two holes.
“I struck it pretty bad all week but my short game saved me, so that was nice,” Korda said. “Overall, you know, I didn’t play very good but I’m going to take some positives away from this week.”
Henderson had two birdies during a bogey-free round.
“Yeah, wasn’t really the day I was looking for,” Henderson said. “At the same time, you grind it out, and I was happy to make two birdies. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough.”
“… Danielle played amazing, so pretty cool to watch her go so far ahead of everybody else.”
Lopez was up and down with four birdies and four bogeys. She strung together three straight birdies on holes 5 to 7 but bogeyed three of the final six holes to fall out of contention.
“I’m ready for any challenge out there,” Lopez said. “I’m ready to press the gas pedal down. I’m ready to be in contention more often. I’m ready for winning championships. I feel that I probably couldn’t say this very confidently couple years ago, but now I do.”
Jessica Korda (72) finished seventh at 8-under 280. Thai Pajaree Anannarukarn (72) and Korean Inbee Park (73) tied for eighth at 7-under. – Rappler.com