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Saso opens up two-stroke lead at Lotte Championship

Yuka Saso, shown during the U.S. Women’s Open last December, shot a second straight 8-under 64 Thursday at the Lotte Championship at Kapolei Golf Club. AP file photo

The Associated Press

KAPOLEI, Oahu — Yuka Saso shot her second consecutive 8-under 64 on Thursday to take a two-shot lead over surging Lydia Ko after two rounds of the Lotte Championship.

Saso, who’s playing on a sponsor’s exemption, made seven birdies in her first 10 holes to catch Ko, who shot 63 earlier Thursday at Kapolei Golf Club. The 19-year-old from the Philippines then birdied the 16th and 17th holes to reach 16 under.

Not bad for a player in her sixth LPGA Tour event who’s uncomfortable with the Hawaii wind.

“I’m trying to get used to it,” Saso said. “The wind is still strong. Like I said yesterday, I don’t really like windy conditions. I’m happy I’m able to play good even if I don’t really like it.”

Saso, who turned pro in November 2019, plays primarily on the Japan LPGA Tour, where she has won twice, and is ranked 43rd in the world. Her best previous LPGA score was 69, and her highest finish was 13th at the U.S. Women’s Open last December.

Ko, the former No. 1 and two-time major champion, hasn’t won since 2018 but may be the hottest player on tour. She has played her last three rounds in 24 under.

Ko shot a final-round 62 last week at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, to finish runner-up to Patty Tavatanakit.

“Coming into this week, obviously coming off the best round in a really long time, I kind of didn’t know what to expect,” Ko said. “Obviously you feel like your game is moving in the right direction, but you don’t want to kind of slack off. Having a good round under my belt yesterday definitely helped. This is a golf course where especially when the wind is down it’s pretty gettable.”

Fourth-ranked Nelly Korda was five shots back along with So Yeon Ryu, Hyo Joo Kim and Luna Sobron Galmes, who plays primarily on the Ladies European Tour. Sobron Galmes had 10 birdies while shooting 64.

U.S. Women’s Open champion A Lim Kim was 10 under after a 64, joined by Ally Ewing and Brianna Do, who shot a career-low 66.

Do’s caddie for the week is Tadd Fujikawa, the longtime Hawaii pro who made the cut at the PGA Tour’s Sony Open as a 16-year-old amateur in 2007.

Fujikawa is home to play next week’s Mid-Pacific Open and practices regularly at Kapolei. He’s known Do since they were 12 years old.

“Most of the time,” Fujikawa said with a smile, “she listens pretty darn well.”

Maui-born Kyung Kim made the cut on the number (3-under 141) after shooting an even-par 72 on Thursday. The LPGA rookie, who moved from Maui to Arizona at the age of 12, started the day four strokes out of the lead after an opening-round 69.

Brooke Henderson, the 2018 and 2019 Lotte champion, was eight shots back after her second straight 68.

Amy Yang had a hole-in-one on the 12th hole, the third ace on tour this year.

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LPGA LOTTE CHAMPIONSHIP

Thursday’s Second-Round Leaders

At Kapolei, Oahu

Yuka Saso 64-64–128 -16

Lydia Ko 67-63–130 -14

Luna Sobron Galmes 69-64–133 -11

Hyo Joo Kim 68-65–133 -11

So Yeon Ryu 65-68–133 -11

Nelly Korda 65-68–133 -11

A Lim Kim 70-64–134 -10

Brianna Do 68-66–134 -10

Ally Ewing 65-69–134 -10

Lexi Thompson 68-67–135  -9

Leona Maguire 68-67–135  -9

Sei Young Kim 67-68–135  -9

Mi Hyang Lee 67-68–135  -9

Rose Zhang (a) 67-68–135  -9

Brittany Altomare 64-71–135  -9

Linnea Strom 69-67–136 -8

Paula Reto 69-67–136 -8

Brooke M. Henderson 68-68–136 -8

Stacy Lewis 66-70–136 -8

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