The Philippines' Yuka Saso failed to follow up on her sizzling first round performance to drop out of the top spot, as the Japanese pair of Miyu Goto and Mao Saigo took over at NEC Karuizawa at Karuizawa Golf North Course in Nagano Prefecture, Japan Saturday.
Saso, a double gold winner at the 2018 Asian Games, yielded the overnight lead as she slowed down with an even par 72. Despite that, she was only one stroke behind the co-leaders, making her a title contender with 137.
Goto and Saigo had identical 136s, as they vied for the 14.4 million yen (P6.58 million) champion’s purse in this 80 million yen (P36.56 million) Japan LPGA tournament.
Saso, well known for having a strong short game, struggled with her irons in the second round as she hit only 11-of-18 greens in regulation, a far cry from her pinpoint accuracy in scoring her opening round 65.
The Filipina-Japanese shared third with Rumi Yoshiba (67), Ayano Asuda (69), Pei-ying Tsai (69) of Chinese Taipei, and Fumika Kawagishi (69).
Saso’s fellow rookie Goto did an excellent job at the putting surface with 26 putts and just missed on four of the 18 greens in regulation. That translated into three pairs of back-to-back birdies on holes 2 and 3, 10 and 11 and 14 and 15.
Goto, 20, is out to atone for missing the cut on the Earth Mondahmin Cup a month ago, as she went bogey free to be at 8-under 136. A few minutes later, Saigo matched that output after shooting a four-under 68.
Although Goto and Saigo are out front, they cannot relax in the finale as 23 players, Saso included, have a shot at the coveted crown.
Not too far behind at 138 were Saiki Fajita, Karen Tsuruoka, Shina Kanazawa and Yoko Maeda.
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