Yuka Saso slipped back to No. 7 in the women’s world rankings following a joint 19th place finish in the ShopRite LPGA Classic but the reigning US Women’s Open champion hopes to rebound strong in this week’s Cognizant Founders Cup beginning Thursday in New Jersey.
For one, the $3 million event is set over four rounds at the Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, unlike in the last three LPGA tournaments played over 54 holes in Portland, Arkansas and in Galloway, New Jersey last week where Saso stayed in the hunt in all three days only to fade midway through the final round on shaky putting.
She put herself in contention with a pair of 26-putt performances but struggled on Seaview’s hard greens when it mattered most, ending up with 34 putts that held back her final round charge on a course she had never played before.
“I think it’s just an excuse not to get a (good) score because it’s the first time that I played the course,” said the ICTSI-backed Saso.
“I just couldn’t match the green (in the final round).”
But she hopes to do better at Mountain Ridge, whose 6,656 yardage could also lead to a slew of low scores given the form of the field toughened up by the return of world No. 1 and Olympic gold medalist Nelly Korda.
The American has taken a long break after helping Team US roll past Europe in the Solheim Cup but the 23-year-old Florida native, winner of this year’s PGA Championship and runner-up in the ANA Inspiration, has stayed in top form during the hiatus and is tipped to contend in all four days.
But defending champion Jin Young Ko of Korea is also in top shape despite losing the ShopRite Classic crown by one to French Celine Boutier, along with Canadian Brooke Henderson and multi-major winner Inbee Park, ensuring top-notch action and fierce duel for top honors in the upcoming event.
Also back in the hunt is Aussie Minjee Lee, the Evian Championship winner who skipped the ShopRite Classic, while the likes of Lexi Thompson, Sei Young Kim, Danielle Kang, Hyo Joo Kim, Lydia Ko, Jessica Korda, Patty Tavatanakit and fellow Thais Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn and Carlota Ciganda are all geared up for the premier championship.
Meanwhile, Saso remains unsure of her stint in next week’s BMW Championship in Busan, Korea, also to be bannered by the world’s leading players.
The Filipino-Japanese shotmaker is also not in the early list in the Toto Japan Classic and Pelican Championship next month and the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Florida.
The LPGA Tour has recently cancelled the $2 million Toto Japan Classic as part of the LPGA calendar due to travel restrictions but the LPGA of Japan Tour will still hold the rich event on 4 to 7 November in Chiba where Saso finished second to Jiyai Shin last year.