Big-hitting Pagdanganan pulls to within one with 67
Bianca Pagdanganan
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Big-hitting Pagdanganan pulls to within one with 67
Dante Navarro (Philstar.com) - October 24, 2020 - 1:18pm

MANILA, Philippines — To say that Bianca Pagdanganan is on a roll is an understatement. For the rookie Filipina ace is red-hot, pounding the Great Waters’ four par-5s with birdies and picking up a couple more with superb iron play for a 67 and a clear shot at a dream LPGA victory.

A pair of brilliant rounds, however, doesn’t make a champion player but with her confidence building up and the momentum swinging her way, the 22-year-old old SEA Games double gold medalist could be heading to a breakthrough just six tournaments into her rookie season on the world’s premier golf stage.

“At some point, you’re going to have to put yourself in contention to understand what it’s like to play on that level,” Pagdanganan, who opened with a 68, told The STAR. “I’ll stick to my game plan and not force anything to happen just like I have these past two rounds.”

From joint sixth and three shots off first round co-leaders Daniella Kang and Jennifer Song of the US in the LPGA Drive On Championship-Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro Georgia, the rising Filipina star came threateningly close at joint second with a 135 in a tie with world No. 5 Kang, who carded a 70 and winner of the first two legs of the pandemic-shortened LPGA season.

They stood just a stroke off new pacesetter Ally McDonald, also of the US, who assembled a 134 after a 68.

After churning out a remarkable joint ninth finish in her first major event, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Pennsylvania two weeks ago, the ICTSI-backed ace knew she could measure up with the best and the brightest.

With her 36-hole performance, she probably has more than delivered her point.

Sustaining her scorching frontside finish of 32 in the first round, Pagdanganan birdied three of the first seven holes inside seven feet after a switch in tee-times then rebounded from a bogey on No. 8 with three more birdies, including on the par-5 18th where she caught choosing between an 8- or 9-iron for a second shot from 165 yards after another monstrous drive.

“I was debating between 8 or 9 but went with an 8 to be safe. I stuck it to 25 feet but left my eagle putt short,” said Pagdanganan, whose last birdie pulled her within a shot off McDonald, who wrested control with a six-birdie, two-bogey round.

While Kang held on with a 70 after a 65, Song floundered with a 75 and tumbled to joint 17th at 140.

After a 300-yard norm Thursday, Pagdanganan slowed down with a 295-yard effort, still the longest in another day of torrid scoring, reaching all but one of the par-5s in two. She, however, struggled a bit with her putter after a 31-putt stint marred by three missed greens, including a three-putt miscue from 65 feet on No. 8.

“I pulled my tee shot to the back left of the green and the pin was in front. I had a 65-foot putt for birdie then a 6 foot par-putt that I just missed,” said Pagdanganan of her lone mishap.

Former world No. 1 and two-time major winner Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand also stayed in contention with a 136 after a 69 for solo fourth while Swede Pernilla Lindberg, another former major titlist, also fired a 69 for a three-way tie at fifth at 137 with Aussie Katherine Kirk and Englishwoman Mel Reid, who shot a 65 and 68, respectively.

Thrust into the spotlight in the pivotal third round with McDonald and Kang, Pagdanganan is more than ready to take on the best.

“Maybe practice a little bit more putting and then maybe a little of my woods. Try to get a little bit more confident, so maybe head to the range and try to work on those,” said Pagdanganan.

“I knew I could play well enough at some point in my career but I guess all I need is for me to actually believe in myself,” she added.

Everybody does, actually, and perhaps, now even the rest of the surviving field in the $1.3 million event.

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