Bianca Pagdanganan tracks down leaders with 69
Bianca Pagdanganan
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Bianca Pagdanganan tracks down leaders with 69
Dante Navarro (Philstar.com) - August 7, 2020 - 2:07pm

MANILA, Philippines – On the right track.

Bianca Pagdanganan broke par after just four rounds in the pros, carding a 69 in the privacy of an early morning start then said she liked where she stood in an event big enough to unnerve the raw, inexperienced bidders.

The LPGA Tour’s early driving leader did miss some fairways and quite a number of greens despite bringing in a new game plan but flashed some kind of resiliency all throughout to salvage pars and be right in the hunt after 18 holes of the Marathon LPGA Classic in Sylvania, Ohio Thursday.

That despite trailing the in-form Danielle Kang of the US and New Zealand’s Lydia Ko by five as the duo pounded the par-71 Highland Meadows Golf Club with a pair of seven-under 64s for a one-stroke lead over American Megan Khang in the $1.7 million championship.

“I’d say my round was pretty steady,” said the 22-year-old Pagdanganan, who mixed four birdies against two bogeys in benign condition as she slowed down off the mound with a 280-yard norm after outdriving the Drive On Championship field with a 295-yard effort last week. “I missed a couple of fairways but was able to make some good pars, too.”

Having overcome the jitters at the 54-hole event at Inverness Club in Toledo, the ICTSI-backed Southeast Asian Games double gold medalist put herself right in the mix at joint 28th in the 72-hole event, much unlike her shaky maiden stint that saw her struggle for 74 and two 73s that nevertheless netted a tied for 28th finish.

After a run of four pars, Pagdanganan hit a solid approach shot on No. 5 for a two-foot birdie putt then recovered from a bogey on No. 7 with birdies on Nos. 9 and 11 inside 11 feet. After dropping another stroke on No. 15, she took advantage of the par-5 17th and holed out with another birdie from three feet.

Kang, who ruled the Drive On tilt by one, kept her brilliant form and turned in another solid round while Ko gunned down eight birdies against a lone bogey to gain a shared view of the top.

Sixty-five players broke par, including Americans Ally McDonald and Angel Yin, Korean Jenny Shin and Germany’s Sophia Popov, who all posted 66s, and Andrea Lee of the US, Maria Fassi of Mexico, Englang’s Jodi Shadoff, and Americans Nelly Korda, Kristen Gillman, Cydney Clanton, Cheyenne Knight and former Major winner Angela Stanford, who all shot 67s, as the short layout virtually lay defenseless in the absence of the wind.

Fifteen others matched par 71s, including Fil-Am Clariss Guce, the projected cut-off line.

Dottie Ardina, out to atone for her missed cut stint at Drive On, bounced back from bogeys on Nos. 11 and 12 with birdies on Nos. 14 and 18 but dropped two more strokes against a birdie at the front, dropping to joint 87th at 72.

Putting emphasis on accuracy over distance, the 2017 Philippine Ladies Open titlist hit nine fairways and missed regulation six times but dodged the menacing bunkers and ended up with 28 putts, an aspect she thinks would be very crucial in the next three days.

She vowed to polish her stroke in an attempt to improve on her opening two-under card in the second round Friday (Saturday in Manila) although she is tipped to face a different kind of challenge in a late tee-off at 12:31 p.m. on No. 10 when wind condition is expected to pick up.

“Yes, I’d say I’m on the right track after the first round,” she said. “I’m definitely going to stick to my game plan but I need to make more putts.”

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