Shibuno joins hunt; Saso resumes drive for 3rd win

Dante Navarro ( – October 29, 2020 – 2:24pm

MANILA, Philippines – The 12-day break should be enough rest and the two-month spell should be enough motivation for Yuka Saso, who sets out for the Hisako Higuchi Mitsubishi Electric Ladies golf tournament Friday probably not as feared as what she was when she posted back-to-back victories last August.

For one, last year’s British Women’s Open champion Hinako Shibuno is in the fold, making a rare appearance on the LPGA of Japan Tour with the world No. 15 drawing Player of the Year derby frontrunner Sakura Koiwai and JLPGA Minolta Cup winner Saki Nagamine in the featured flight at 10 a.m. on No. 1 of the Musashigaoka Golf Course in Saitama Prefecture.

After winning the NEC Karuizawa and Nitori Ladies titles, Saso’s game somewhat took a downswing. She tied for eighth finish in the Desant Tokai Classic last September, proving her best in her next six tournaments, including two major championships where she tied for 13th at JLPGA Minolta Cup and ended up joint 14th in the Japan Women’s Open.

But she expects to come out stronger and do better in this weekend’s Y80 million event, aiming not only to snap a slump but also regain the top ranking in the Player of the Year race she yielded to local ace Koiwai three tournaments ago.

After finishing joint 10th in the Fujitsu Ladies two weeks ago, the ICTSI-backed Fil-Japanese said she had wanted “to take a good rest” and the long respite is expected to fire her up as she launches her drive against Earth Mondahmin Cup winner Ayaka Watanabe and multi-titled Teresa Lu of Taiwan at 9:30 a.m., also on No. 1.

Also generating interest in the 54-hole tournament are defending champion Ai Suzuki, recent Japan Open champion Erika Hara and Stanley Ladies titlist Mone Inami, who will slug it out at 9:50 a.m.

The event also serves as tune-up for next week’s Toto Japan Classic at the Taiheiyo Club Minori Golf Course in Ibaraki Prefecture, the third major offering Y160 million purse.

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