Pagdanganan settles for 3rd in LPGA Drive On Championship
Bianca Pagdanganan and Ally McDonald walk to the 17th green during the final round of the 2020 LPGA Drive On Championship at Reynolds Lake Oconee on October 25, 2020 in Greensboro, Georgia.
Mike Comer/Getty Images/AFP
Pagdanganan settles for 3rd in LPGA Drive On Championship
Dante Navarro (Philstar.com) - October 26, 2020 - 6:54pm

MANILA, Philippines – Her awesome power was in full display all week but Bianca Pagdanganan lost, to her chagrin, her killer touch over the sleek greens and settled for third in the LPGA Drive On Championship-Reynolds Lake Oconee won by American Ally McDonald in Georgia.

Her over 300-yard drives were the staple of golf talks since she emerged as a rookie sensation that netted her $186,266 by making the cut in all six starts in the world's premier ladies circuit.

And her third place finish, following a strong finish, has barely scratched the surface of a promising career where this early she was being tabbed as the ‘’future of women’s golf."

But she couldn’t win the war by losing the battle and it was very evident Sunday as her short irons and wedges failed to click the way they did in the first three days, squandering her gambits to overwhelm the par-5s as she did in the second round.

The power-hitting Filipina ace birdied the last two holes for the second straight time to break a run of pars for a 70 and a 14-under 274 total at the Great Waters course in Greensboro which McDonald dominated with a 272 output spiked by a closing 69 for a one-stroke victory over world No. 5 Daniella Kang, who fired a 68 for a 273.

She pocketed $83,557 (P4 million), nearly matching her earnings of $83,765 for a joint ninth place finish in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, one of the Tour’s majors, two weeks ago in Pennsylvania.

Though her closing bogey-free card would’ve been enough to anchor a title drive, Pagdanganan rued the missed chance of going all the way as she failed to take advantage of the par-5s.

“It definitely got a little frustrating, but it’s okay,” Pagdanganan, who birdied the four par5s Friday to stay within one off McDonald, told The STAR. “I guess I could’ve made birdies on the par-5s but I only actually birdied the last.

But she stressed the three other chances weren’t necessarily makeable since they ranged from 25-30 feet out.

“I should’ve taken advantage (of the par-5s) but I also don’t want to beat myself about it,” she added.

But that enabled McDonald to beat her and Kang behind a hot three-birdie run from No. 10 to wrest firm control.

Despite her struggle to gun down birdies, Pagdanganan remained in the hunt by staying 2-3 strokes behind majority of the way in a thriller of a final round so crowded that at least six players earned a stab at the title and whose result remained in the balance until McDonald birdied the 16th to go 3-up on Kang, who pulled to within one with back-to-back birdies from No. 13.

The Tour’s driving leader normed 293 yards off the tee, leaving McDonald and Kang by 30-35 yards based on their average driving distance. Though she went out of regulation five times, there was not much of a worry to save pars for the ICTSI-backed ace.

“I had one actual save-par but the rest were pretty much tap-ins,” said Pagdanganan, who broke that par-game with a crisp 9-iron tee-shot on No. 17 and blasted off the bunker on the 18th, both to within a foot for birdies.

The title chase also heated up in a flight ahead as Mina Harigae, also of the US, threatened to within two with a frontside 33 but ran out of holes despite adding two more birdies at the back for a solid 67. She tied for fourth at 275 with a hot-finishing Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, who birdied three of the last four for a 69.

Two-time major winner Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand charged back from five-down to within one off McDonald with a blistering birdie-birdie-par-eagle-birdie run from No. 3. But the former world No. 1 reeled back with a double-bogey on the ninth and put to naught another birdie on No. 15 with a closing bogey for a 69 and a 277 for joint sixth with Aussie Katherine Kirk, who carded a 70.

From joint ninth in a major event to solo third, things are looking up indeed for the Pagdanganan, whose Tour campaign is also backed by Skyflakes, Ping, Titleist, Footjoy and Swingdish.

“I hope so (getting closer to that first win),” said Pagdanganan who expects to get stronger, tougher and better in the next four events. “But I still have parts of my game that I need to work on.”

She added she’s glad on how she had handled the pressure playing against the seasoned campaigners, saying: “I really enjoyed being in contention this week. I had mixed feelings but I like where my game is headed. I haven’t struck the ball this good in awhile so there are still lots of positives to take away this week.”

The circuit takes a three-week break and will resume with the Pelican Women’s Championship in Florida on Nov. 19-22 then heads to Texas for the Volunteers of American Classic on December 3-6 before the year’s last major, the US Women’s Open in Houston on December 10-13. The Tour winds up with the CME Group Tour Championship back in Florida on December 17-20.

BIANCA PAGDANGANAN GOLF
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