Young Saso ties Rodriguez at helm

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Yuka Saso CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Yuka Saso CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Yuka Saso rode on a two-shot swing on the final hole to tie fancied Cyna Rodriguez in the lead as the Fil-Japanese amateur took over from a fading Sofia Chabon in the second round of the ICTSI Splendido Ladies Invitational at Splendido Taal Golf Club in Tagaytay on Thursday.

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Saso, 13, birdied the par-5 18th from eight feet to salvage a one-over 72 then watched Rodriguez fumble with a three-putt mishap and sign a 74 to force a tie at four-over 146 heading to the final round of the P500,000 championship serving as the sixth leg of the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.

Thailand’s Amolkan Phalajivin, who finished runner-up to Rodriguez at John Hay and Mt. Malarayat the last two months, also kept her drive for a maiden crown going, turning in a gutsy 72 to trail the joint leaders by just one at 147.

Chabon, impressive with her opening 71, skied to an 83 marred by three double-bogeys at the front, and tumbled down to joint seventh with Korean Kwon Seo Yon, who carded a 75, at 154, eight strokes adrift.

The rolling par-71 layout, relatively short for its 6,050-yard distance, continued to bedevil the games of the compact field with its bunkers coming into play in most holes and the tough putting surface producing a slew of three-putt miscues with Chabon’s even-par 71 Wednesday proving to be the best in two days.

“The course is no problem but the greens are tough to read with some pins strategically placed on slopes,” said Saso, one of the youngest members of Team ICTSI who is coming off a string of victories abroad.

The way she rebounded from opening back-to-back double-bogeys to threaten Rodriguez for the crown only underscored her sharp form and determination to end the latter’s domination of the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

She birdied No. 3 from eight feet, drilled in another from five feet on No. 8 then bounced back from a three-putt bogey on No. 13 with birdies on Nos. 16 and 18.

Rodriguez, one down behind Chabon at the start of another scorching day, dropped three strokes in the first 11 holes and didn’t hit a birdie until the 16th to stay 2-up over Saso. But she failed to match Saso’s big finish, and worse, she three-putted from 30 feet on the 18th to settle for joint lead.

“I couldn’t get anything going and misread a lot of putts,” rued Rodriguez, who nevertheless remained on track for a fourth straight win and fifth overall on the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. “ I also wasn’t hitting my driver well.”

But she is expected to rebound strong in today’s final round and let Saso, despite her amateur statues, feel the pressure of fighting for the crown the way she dominated her fellow pros in the last four legs of the eight-stage circuit backed by Nike, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp.

Phalajivin, however, could spring some surprise as the comely Thai shotmaker crept to within one, the closest that she got to Rodriguez after losing by 11 and 10 strokes in Baguio and Batangas.

Chihiro Ikeda, also seeking to nail her first win, birdied the 17th for a 72 although the former SEA Games individual gold medalist stood four strokes behind at 150; Sarah Ababa lay at 153 after a 73 in a tie with amateur Sam Martirez, who limped with a 79 while Korean amateur Ko Euna rallied with a 73 to tie Lovelynn Guioguio, who had a 77, at 155.

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