2021 U.S. Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso didn’t show any sign of offseason rust in the first round of the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. The 20-year-old fired a 4-under 68 on Thursday, highlighted by a 60-yard, hole-out eagle on the 14th at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club. Saso also carded six birdies and four bogeys in her tournament debut, an up-and-down day that has her just one shot back of the early lead. Playing with World Series champions Tom Glavine and Jon Lester, Saso didn’t seem bothered by the event’s unusual format, instead peppering her playing partners with questions, curious about their prior athletic careers.
“I'm very thankful I was able to play in this event. That eagle, that was unexpected, but I hit a good shot. Landed probably a foot left of the hole and spun back and went in. I was surprised, but that was really good,” she said. “It was very fun. (Tom, Jon and I) talked a little and it was really good. I knew they were baseball players, but I had no idea what they've done or what they do, so I asked a lot of questions. I like baseball, but I'm not a fan of any teams. But I like watching.”
Hitting 12 of 14 fairways, Saso led the field in driving distance in round one, averaging 279 yards off the tee, and she needed just 29 putts to get the job done on the greens. While her game is marked by youthful aggression, it’s tempered by a veteran’s accuracy, a trait that’s beneficial around a course like Lake Nona. 2022 will be Saso’s first full season as an LPGA Tour Member and though she knows there’s still a lot she has yet to figure out, the confidence she radiates on the golf course will carry her through those growing pains.
“I wasn't really expecting anything to go good because this is our first tournament, and I didn't do much of anything during the offseason. I’m just trying to stay calm and not think about it,” said Saso. “I still have a lot of things to learn but having a good team who supports me and gives me maybe not more, but confidence with playing. So having new sponsors, it's great, and having a good team has helped me I think.”