Tiger-like game

August 17, 2020
Yuka Saso
SASO: Leaving her rivals in awe.

Her closest rivals compared her to no less than golfing great Tiger Woods on the day the Philippines' Yuka Saso made her historic win in the tough, rich Japan Professional Ladies Golf Association on Sunday in Nagano Prefecture in Japan.

"I feel like it's not a women's tour. It's like playing with Tiger Woods," said Fujita Saito, in a tribute to the glittering performance of the Filipino-Japanese golfer.

Saito  played alongside Saso and compatriot Karen Tsuruoka in the final round of the NEC Karuizawa 72 golf tournament which the Filipina won by three shots to become the first PH golfer to win in the Japanese circuit.

Saito, 34, said she had actually played with Saso in last year’s two-day qualifying of the Suntory Ladies Open and noticed the tremendous improvement in length by the two-time Philippine Ladies Open titlist.

“I thought her distance had increased a little from last year and I left it to Saso-san for about 20 yards,” said Saito in broken English.

There was no recorded driving distance for the 54-hole event but Saso’s card showed 19 birdies, including seven on par-5s, to underscore her awesome power. In the final round, she blasted a 285-yard drive on the par-5 16th and hit a solid 6-iron second shot to within 3 meters off the cup for eagle.

The Japanese closed out her campaign with five birdies in the last six holes, including four straight, for a 66 but still fell short by four as Saso ran away with the crown in only her second tournament on the LPGA of Japan Tour with an eagle-spiked, record-setting 63.

“I can play golf so complete at that age…but the power of her shot is amazing,” said Saito. “It’s better (for her) to go, play big scale.”

Saso did try to break into the LPGA Tour but fell short of her bid in the Final Q-Series, shifting her focus instead on the JLPGA where she turned in a joint fifth place effort in her maiden tournament at Earth Mondahmin Cup in Chiba last June before putting it all together this week.

Former world No. 1 Sung Hyun Park actually had a first glimpse of Saso’s potential when they slugged it out in the inaugural The Country Club Ladies Invitational at the TCC layout last year when the latter impressed the former, then playing as an amateur, with her long game and toughness.

“She’s a pro material,” said Park. “She’s good, she swings well and hits it with power.”