Yuka Saso of Japan plays her tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the 77th US Women’s Open Championship at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club

Yuka Saso of Japan plays her tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the 77th US Women’s Open Championship at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club. —AFP.

Yuka Saso missed a lot more fairways than she hit on Thursday and went on to shoot a six-over-par 77 to be in grave danger of missing the cut in her defense of the US Women’s Open title which American  leads after firing a 64.

Saso, who gave the Philippines its first major golf champion last year with an improbable win over Japan’s Nasa Hataoka in a playoff, beat just 23 players in the 156-strong field and would need a really low round at tough as nails Pine Needles to advance to the weekend.

“The result [off the tees] wasn’t good and that’s the main issue,” Saso told the Japan Times, which is chronicling all the Japanese players in the field, including Saso, who had chosen her father’s citizenship. “It’s quite hard to fix your tee shots once you get onto the course. I need to adjust my play.”

Hataoka, meanwhile, end round one as the best-placed Japanese after a level 71.

Harigae gunned down nine birdies against two bogeys to finish one shot off the tournament record after Swedish amateur Ingrid Lindblad led much of the day. Lingblad went on to shoot a 65 to be a shot back.

“I was confident that as long as I could hit it where I needed to then it would be a pretty good day,” Harigae said. “But I didn’t think it would be this good of a day.”

The 32-year-old American, whose parents are from Japan, missed the US Women’s Open 18-hole record of 63 by Helen Alfredsson in 1994.

Lindblad, a 22-year-old standout for Louisiana State University, shot the lowest score by an amateur in tournament history. She needed only 26 putts.

Australian Minjee Lee, last month’s LPGA Founders Cup winner, fired a 67 to be tied with American Ryann O’Toole and Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist, who was in Saso’s group.

Lindblad, the world No. 2 amateur who won four of her first five college events this year, can’t claim the record $1.8 million top prize from a $10 million purse, the largest in women’s golf history.

“It would have been fun to win a little bit of money, but I’m going to stay in college for a little bit more,” Lindblad said.

The only amateur player to ever win the US Women’s Open was France’s Catherine Lacoste in 1967.

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