Dottie Ardina (L) and Bianca Pagdanganan
Pinay aces waver in LPGA return
Dante Navarro ( - August 1, 2020 - 2:07pm

MANILA, Philippines — Bianca Pagdanganan boomed with her long game but floundered with the rest, ending up with a two-over 74 in a wobbly LPGA Tour debut in the Drive On Championship paced by world No. 4 Danielle Kang in Toledo, Ohio Friday.

The power-hitting SEA Games double gold medalist tamed the Inverness Club’s three par-5s, birdying two and eagling No. 2, but struggled with the demanding par-4s and their surface. She stumbled with six bogeys, including on the par-3 No. 3, for a 36-38 card that dropped her to joint 48th among the 131-player starting field from 30 countries in the $1 million event marking the return of the world’s premier ladies circuit after four-and-a-half month break due to pandemic.

Dottie Ardina, the other Filipina in the first of back-to-back tournament in Ohio, fared worse with a 78 and in danger of missing the cut at joint 102nd.

Kang, who stayed off competitive play for more than six months, looked as though she had never been off the fairway, churning out a bogey-free 66 for a one-stroke lead over England’s Jodi Shadoff.

The LPGA Tour’s keenly awaited return from global health crisis caused an immediate sense of the sport’s new world with strict safety protocols, including no spectators and not even one leaderboard on the course that would help guide the players, particularly those in the hunt.

Pagdanganan, relishing her first crack in the big league following a brilliant amateur career, broke out of a three-par game at the back with a birdie on the par-5 13th, sparking hopes for an explosive start for the former Philippine Ladies Open titlist. But she hobbled and groped while tackling the par-4 holes and the greens, dropping three strokes in the next five holes.

Her struggle continued at the front with another bogey on the par-4 first hole but eagled the par-5 No. 2 before giving up strokes on the next two. She birdied No. 8, the last par-5, to salvage a 36 and a 74.

Fil-Am Clariss Guce carded a 75 for joint 69th, the projected cut-off line in the 54-hole tournament headlined by world No. 2 Nelly Korda of the US and a slew of fancied players and former Major champions.

Ardina, out to regain her full LPGA card after a forgettable 2019 campaign, failed to recover from a double-bogey mishap on the first hole, dropping two strokes again on No. 6 and bogeying the next.
Though she fought back with back-to-back birdies to close out her frontside stint, the Canlubang pro made another double bogey on No. 14 then bogeyed the next for a pair of 39s.

Like Kang, Shadoff came up with a bogey-free card, spiking her 67 with three straight birdies from No. 2, while South African Lee-Anne Pace and Frenchwoman Celine Boutier turned in identical 68s and American Amy Olson, Aussie Minjee Lee and Kiwi Lydia Ko shot similar 69s to be in the mix.

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