Tavatanakit dominates Saudi Ladies International, Saso finishes seventh

Yuka Saso, the 2021 US Women’s Open champion, had a rough start in the final round of the Saudi Ladies International, dropping two shots in the first four holes. However, she bounced back with four birdies and finished with a one-under 71, tying for seventh place with Alice Hewson of England and So Mi Lee of Korea. Saso, who is backed by ICTSI, had a four-day total of 282, 12 strokes behind the runaway winner Patty Tavatanakit of Thailand.

The Saudi event was Saso’s first tournament in the new season, and it served as a valuable tuneup for her upcoming LPGA Tour campaign, which will start in the Honda LPGA Thailand on Feb. 22-25 in Chonburi. She will be joined by her ICTSI stablemate and former national teammate Bianca Pagdanganan, who also qualified for the elite circuit.

Tavatanakit cruises to victory with seven-shot margin

Patty Tavatanakit, the former major champion, showed no signs of slowing down as she led from start to finish in the Saudi Ladies International, the second leg of this year’s Ladies European Tour. She fired a seven-under 65 in the final round, highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 No. 5 and five birdies, to beat Esther Henseleit of Germany by seven shots. Tavatanakit had a remarkable performance throughout the tournament, posting rounds of 66, 70, 69, and 65 for a total of 18-under 270.

Tavatanakit, who won the ANA Inspiration last year, took home the top prize of $697,743 out of the total purse of $5 million, the largest in women’s golf history. She also became the first Thai player to win the Saudi Ladies International, which was inaugurated in 2020.

Henseleit settles for second, Katsu claims third

Esther Henseleit, the 2019 LET Rookie of the Year, tried to keep pace with Tavatanakit, but could not overcome the three-shot deficit she faced after the third round. She carded a three-under 69, with four birdies and a bogey, to finish second with a 277. Henseleit, who won the Magical Kenya Ladies Open in 2019, earned $465,828 for her runner-up finish.

Minami Katsu, the Japanese sensation, made a strong surge in the final round, shooting a six-under 66, the best score of the day. She had seven birdies and a bogey, and climbed to third place with a 279. Katsu, who became the youngest winner on the Japan LPGA Tour at 15, pocketed $331,305 for her podium finish.

Other notable players in the field

The Saudi Ladies International attracted some of the best players in the world, including the 2020 champion Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark, who tied for 10th with a 283. Other notable players in the field were Georgia Hall of England, who tied for 13th with a 284, Charley Hull of England, who tied for 18th with a 285, and Lydia Ko of New Zealand, who tied for 21st with a 286.

The tournament was held at the Riyadh Golf Club, a par-72 course that measures 6,600 yards. The course features desert landscapes, palm trees, and water hazards, and challenges the players with its undulating greens and strategic bunkers.

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