Mendoza: Saso shows second aspect of herself

Al Mendoza
·2 min read

AS I keep saying, golf is one of the most challenging sporting disciplines ever invented. Like crime, this sport can never be perfected.

Oh, yeah, you can craft what would seem like a perfect round of 18 holes. A rain of birdies here and an eagle or two there. No bogeys.

But that does not assure you of an outright victory.

A rival can overtake you anytime, defeat you with her own version of a near-perfect performance. Golf has always been like that: It jolts you to realities that are sometimes too hard to comprehend, believe.

So that it is usually in golf that the saying, “It ain’t over until it’s over,” indisputably describes a duel’s true termination.

Till the last putt is dropped in many a tournament, the winner’s unknown.

Take Yuka Saso’s last round on Sunday. She fired a 9-under-par 63—her career-best—in a brilliant windup in the Toto Japan Classic in Omitama City, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Saso sealed her impeccable push for yet another glorious comeback with a birdie-birdie-birdie ending—definitely a flourish of a finish rarely seen from a 19-year-old competing in Japan’s toughest of Tours.

Did Saso win?

No. She finished second behind South Korea’s Jiyai Shin, who closed out with a 66. While that was three shots inferior to Saso’s finishing 63, Shin decorated her round with an eagle on 17 before she closed out with a birdie.

Golf tournaments run through four days—usually three in ladies’ play—so that perfecting consistency in all the rounds played is a must to make one constantly in serious contention for the crown.

Thus, Saso’s overall performance in the Toto Classic is microscope stuff.

Her finishing blemish-free 63 was absolutely a knockout. However, her penultimate round was a so-so a.k.a. imperfect, dropping her to 12th going to the final round.

Despite the mighty last-round rally, Saso fell short and had to contend with a runner-up finish three shots behind Shin (is she the granddaughter of basketball legend Shin Dong Pa?).

“It’s OK,” said Saso, who missed winning her second Japan Tour leg. “Shin’s not the former world No. 1 for nothing.”

Great players are also perfect, almost, when it comes to accepting defeats.