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PH golf bets will be very much at home in Tokyo

Yuka Saso is dialed in on the Olympics. —AFP

There’s no doubt that Yuka Saso will be one of the favorites when golf comes off the wraps in the Tokyo Olympics in August.

And it’s not just because of her confidence-building triumph in the recent US Open as the 19-year-old Filipino-Japanese will be playing virtually on home soil at Kasumigaseki Country Club where the weather is expected to be humid at that time of year and one which she has played before.

National Golf Association of the Philippines secretary general Bones Floro is confident that Saso, together with Bianca Pagdanganan and Juvic Pagunsan, will feel at ease against the finest players in the world with Saso and Pagunsan standouts of their respective Japan tours and Pagdanganan no stranger to action there, either.

“Yuka played it [Kasumigaseki] once before. Yuka and Juvic are both playing in the Japan Tour while Bianca has likewise played in Japan before, so there’s some sort of comfort for them playing in Tokyo,’’ said Floro during the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum.

Saso already has two victories in the Japan Ladies Professional Golf Association, while Pagunsan ruled the Mizuno Open three weeks ago and has been campaigning in the lucrative circuit for the last 10 years.

“The weather will be warmer and humid and that should work well for our athletes. It will be Filipino-friendly weather out there,’’ added Floro.

Though the chances of landing on the medal podium will likewise depend on how the organizers will set up the course, Floro believes bringing home a medal is not far-fetched for Saso, Pagdanganan and Pagunsan.

90% mental

“I’ve been very vocal about it, they possess real chances of going up onto the [medal] podium. I’ve worked with them, seen them. Golf is 90 percent mental, and I think the three have [that] covered, their confidence right now has reached [their] peak,’’ said Floro.

Saso catapulted to No. 8 in the Olympic women’s golf rankings after her spectacular US Open performance, while the US-based Pagdanganan is ranked 42nd out of the 60 qualified competitors. Both will see action in the Games on Aug. 4-7.

“With that historic win of Yuka, she knows she can beat these people. Since only two players are allowed for each country, Yuka will deal with lesser players compared to the US Open,’’ said Floro.

Pagunsan is currently 51st in the men’s OGR and should arrive in Tokyo at least five days before the July 29-Aug. 1 tournament. Olympic organizers will allow the 120 participants five practice days on the course.

“I checked the course on 3D imaging and victory for our golfers will depend on how the organizers will set it up. If they set it up long, it will favor our ladies because they are stronger amongst the pros,’’ said Floro.

“Juvic is also a strong player, so it will suit them better if they play on a longer course,’’ added Floro.

He said Pagunsan has been thinking twice of playing in the coming British Open on July 15-18 as he’s more inclined to represent the flag in Tokyo. INQ


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