FIL-JAPANESE Yuka Saso put herself in position to end a slump as she held second spot and faced a manageable one-shot deficit heading into the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in Rogers, Arkansas.
On the heels of her blemish-free seven-under-par 64 opener, Ms. Saso shot a 65 and went without a bogey anew at the Pinnacle Country Club to stay in the mix for her first crown since her 2021 US Women’s Open breakthrough.
The 21-year-old parbuster trailed the red-hot Attaya Thitikul of Thailand by one as they enter the homestretch of the $2.3-million 54-hole event.
Ms. Thitikul sizzled with a tournament record-tying, eagle-spiked 61 Saturday to storm ahead of Ms. Saso and four other Round 1 leaders after lurking at joint 15th.
The Thai ace is at 14-under-par 128 overall with Ms. Saso (129) on her tail.
Slowing down after a 12-of-14 stint off the mound in the first round, Ms. Saso missed five fairways on a 298-yard norm. She went out of regulation five times but saved par each time to keep her bid alive.
American Lilia Vu sits at third at 130 after a second-round 65 followed by Danielle Kang, who also turned in a bogey-less six-under to share fourth with seven others at 132.
Mmess. Saso, Thitikul and Vu face off in the championship flight Sunday.
“Just trying to be patient and trying to play consistent, trying to have fun,” said Ms. Saso, who’s seeking to regain her top form after missing the cut seven times this year, including the US Open, and finishing no higher than 24th since July.
“That’s been my mindset this week. I don’t think I’m going to change anything. Trying to have fun and learn a lot tomorrow (last round, Monday, Manila time).”
Ms. Saso’s 36-hole card was her best in a long while, giving her confidence and momentum for the final reckoning.
“I think we’ll see how it goes in the first few holes,” said Ms. Saso when asked whether to attack or play it rather conservatively. “I think just trying to play consistent again.” — Olmin Leyba