San Diego, California – Yuka Saso ran smack into a steady-hitting Japanese who made all the amazing shots needed to win a championship duel and went on to deny the Philippine bet’s chase for an IMG Academy Junior World crown for the second year running here on Friday (Saturday Manila time).
Saso saw yet another impressive three-day run in the annual jungolf meet blasted to bits by Nao Ohbayashi as the Japanese tied the tournament’s best score of six-under-par 66 that turned an overnight three-stroke deficit into a blowout four-stroke victory at Torrey Pines North.
Saso needed better than an A game to win this one. And her closing one-over-par 73 wasn’t the kind of game to beat the near-flawless Ohbayashi.
Ohbayashi played her farewell round with an assortment of magical putts and recoveries that simply wore down Saso, sinking a 28-foot birdie putt on the third hole, another from 35 feet on the 10th and a mind-boggling 40-footer to save par on the 15th.
Those long putts were the big breaks that paved the way for the runaway Ohbayashi victory and Saso had to settle for the runner-up trophy a year after bungling a four-stroke lead and ended up placing second to Japanese Nasa Hataoka who is now a rookie on the LPGA Tour.
Saso and teammate Bernice Ilas, scoring a 74, also lost their bid for the team event, placing third behind winner Chinese-Taipei and Japan. Mikha Fortuna tied for 15th while Ilas wound up tied for 30th in individual play.
Saso and Riane Malixi, who placed third in the girls 9-10 years on Thursday, emerged as the best performers of a 43-strong delegation whose front liners were flown here by official carrier Philippine Airlines.
The turning point came on the 10th where Yuka three-putted for a bogey and Obayahashi made that long putt for a two-shot swing that gave the lead to the Japanese she never relinquished. Two holes later, Yuka was already three strokes down as Obayashi birdied the 11th and Yuka three-putted again from 40 feet on the 12th.
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