Bianca Pagdanganan makes Olympic case

Dante Navarro - Philstar.com
Bianca Pagdanganan makes Olympic case
Bianca Pagdanganan
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines – Bianca Pagdanganan's impressive joint ninth place finish in her first Major test didn't only enable her to post the biggest one-week jump in women's world golf rankings but also put her in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics conversation.

In fact, the 22-year-old Filipina LPGA Tour rookie came out of nowhere claim the No. 47 spot in the latest Olympic race ranking, dislodging Dottie Ardina.

Japan Ladies PGA Tour campaigner Yuka Saso remains the top Filipina bet at No. 30 on the strength of her fine showing in the region's premier ladies circuit where the Fil-Japanese rookie has posted two victories to likewise lead the money race.

Like majority of the cast, the Philippines has two slots in the 60-player field in the Tokyo Games, moved a year later due to the global health crisis.

Though she made the cut in her first four LPGA Tour events, Pagdanganan never turned in a placing higher than joint 28th in the Drive On Championship in Ohio last July and more so, hasn't entertained thoughts of making a run for an Olympic berth at this stage.

But that changed when she put in a brilliant showing in the middle rounds of the LPGA's third major, the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in Pennsylvania two weeks ago. She sizzled with back-to-back bogey-free 65s to barge into the Top 5 after three rounds although she wavered when the going got tough with a closing three-over 73.

But her tied for ninth finish was enough to net her a record spot jump of 478 rungs after moving from No. 712 to No. 234.

That feat plus her making it to the Olympic race circle are expected to fire her up all the more when she launches her drive in her next LPGA foray, the inaugural $1.3 million Drive On Championship-Reynolds Lake Oconee beginning Thursday in Georgia.

Ardina, with a world ranking of 312, was relegated to first alternate after losing grip of the No. 54 spot.

Saso and Pagdanganan, both power hitters, would make an explosive pair for the Philippines in Tokyo with the ICTSI-backed aces and 2018 Asian Games gold medal teammates expected to get better, stronger by the time the 2021 Games are held.

For one, Saso will have the proverbial home-court edge since she will have all the time to famiarize herself with the Kasumigaseki Golf Club in Saitama between now and the event proper on Aug. 6-9, 2021.

On the other hand, Pagdanganan, the LPGA Tour's driving leader, will have polished all the aspects of her game by that time.

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