Excitement, challenges await Saso at Sahalee

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Excitement, challenges await Saso at Sahalee
Yuka Saso of Japan acknowledges the crowd on the 18th green during the final round of the US Women's Open Presented by Ally at Lancaster Country Club on June 02, 2024 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Sarah Stier / Getty Images / AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Yuka Saso, the most recent major champion, expressed her excitement about the KPMG Women's PGA Championship firing off Thursday (Friday Manila time) at the Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Washington, where the prize money has been increased to $10.4 million.

“It’s exciting news for every one of us,” she said during Tuesday’s press conference. “It helps us in a lot of ways.”

Reflecting on her recent achievement, Saso shared her enthusiasm: “As the most recent major champion, I am very excited with all the news — the prize increase, stellar cast, and my recent win — and playing at Sahalee where I have many good memories. The course is in good shape. It’s very difficult, and I’m really looking forward to playing on it.”

When asked to compare her two major wins at the US Women’s Open, Saso said: “I couldn’t compare my win in 2021 with my victory this year. They are both special in their own ways. I think it would change my life, but I haven’t felt like my life has changed after my win two weeks ago — maybe it will in two months,” she added with a lighthearted smile.

Currently, the ICTSI-backed ace said her focus is on playing each week to the best of her ability.

“Right now, my focus is to play every week and play my best. Hopefully, I make the cut this week and be in contention for the weekend. Winning here in the LPGA is very hard for me; it took me two years to win again. To be able to do it was very special,” said Saso, who will turn 23 on Thursday.

After her US Women's Open victory in Pennsylvania, Saso vied in the ShopRite LPGA Classic, where she unfortunately missed the cut. Following this, she decided to take a week off to rest and recover before heading to Washington. She played a few practice rounds at Sahalee then pointed out that the cold weather and the narrow, challenging layout of the course will present significant hurdles during the tournament.

The big-hitting ace described the Sahalee course as a tough test with its undulating surfaces. “It’s very narrow here compared to other courses we’ve played on tour. So it’s going to be very difficult. I have to hit it straight and stay out of the trees. It makes me focus more when it’s difficult. I don’t know why I play better on difficult courses.”

She plans to use her driver on most holes, adjusting based on wind direction, to avoid long iron shots for her second shots. “I’ll just try to be consistent with my driver and give myself shorter clubs for approach shots.”

Regarding the Olympics, Saso shared her excitement about qualifying for the Paris Games following her major win that catapulted her to world No. 6 and a guaranteed spot in the 60-player Olympic cast. “Luckily, I was able to win a championship, and gave myself a chance for the Olympics. I’m very excited to go to Paris, spend the week there with my dad, and hopefully my mom as well.”

Playing at Sahalee, she emphasized the need to balance aggression and conservatism.

“You have to hit it straight but also long. I’ve played more than 18 holes already, but I need more time to see the course and figure it out,” she said while underscoring the importance of patience and enjoying the game throughout the major championship.

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