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Saso settles for 3rd in IMG

Yuka Saso of the Philippines collapsed with a six-over-par 78 Friday and settled for third place in the girls 15-17 years division of the IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championships at the La Costa Resort and Spa Legends course in Carlsbad, California.

A series of bad drives resulted to two double bogeys and a bogey on the first four holes and Saso found herself falling three strokes behind at the turn with a six over 42 in a forgettable round that was completely a reversal of her solid form the past three days, clearing the way for Nasa Hataoka of Japan to post a two-stroke victory.

Hataoka, shooting a 72 for 286, parried all efforts by Saso to bounce back in the back nine and it was all over when the Japanese birdied the 16th to regain a three-shot lead.

Saso wound up at 288 in a tie with another Japanese Rui Hiraoka who carded a 71 but lost in the countback for second place.

Saso’s third place showing proved to be the best finish by delegation sent here by the Junior Golf Foundation of the Philippines with the support of Philippine Airlines as the official carrier in the competition that drew 1,200 players from 56 countries. Sofia Chabon fired a 71 to salvage a share of 18th at 297, Mikha Fortuna carded a 73 for a 25th place tie at 299 and Annika Cedo wound up 42nd after an 80-309.

Over at the Torrey Pines South course, Ira Alido and Luis Castro wound up sharing 28th place with five others after a 72 and 77, respectively in the boys 15-17 years won by Joaquin Niemann of Chile. Alido and Castro finished 13 shots behind the winning 276 total of Niemann.

“I got hit by three errant drives early and that was the story of my round today,” said the 15-year-old Saso who was playing in her division for the first time and will have two more chances to go for the victory that didn’t happen just in case she decides to.

“I think it wasn’t meant for me and I’ll just have to learn from this experience. I need more mental toughness and that’s one aspect that I’d be working on in my next tournaments,” said Saso who will be competing in two of the biggest amateur events in the United States – the US Girls Juniors and the US Women’s Amateur – the next three weeks.