Bianca sizzles with 66, trails by 3; Saso, Ardina struggle

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Bianca sizzles with 66, trails by 3; Saso, Ardina struggle
Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and Dottie Ardina

MANILA, Philippines – A week after clinching a berth in next month’s US Women’s Open, Bianca Pagdanganan kept flashing her superb ball-striking skills, producing a stirring six-under eagle-spiked 66 to stalk an equally hot-starting Madelene Sagstrom in the first round of the Cognizant Founders Cup in Clifton, New Jersey Thursday (Friday, Manila time).

While compatriot Yuka Saso continued to grope for form and hobbled with a 73 which Dottie Ardina matched, Pagdanganan sustained hers coming off a joint third place finish in the US Women’s Open qualifier at Fort Myers, Florida as she churned out her best round of the year for a spot at fourth with Italy’s Giulian Molinaro and Korean Amy Yang.

Working on a “knowing where to miss” approach, the 24-year-old ICTSI-backed Filipina ace hardly missed at the Upper Montclair Country Club layout, hitting 10 fairways and 16 greens for an impressive 32-34 card despite finishing with 33 putts.

“I had a lot of trust in my club and I knew that I could hit it where I wanted so I just went for it, kind of just missed it long, but I converted the birdie,” said Pagdanganan, referring to her birdie on No. 9, a par-5 hole she couldn’t reach in two during practice.

But with a solid drive and a brilliant approach shot, she made it though she missed her eagle bid.

“I didn’t think I could reach No. 9 honestly. During practice round, my caddy and I had that down as a 3-shot hole, especially with the water on the right. But I was in a good spot and I knew that I felt good heading into that hole.”

She was actually awesome after 8 holes, three of which she birdied. After making the turn at 32, she achieved what she had failed to do on No. 9 as she eagled the par-5 12th and went 7-under with another birdie on the 15th.

But a missed green mishap on the next led to her only bogey in the day as the power-hitting former SEA Games gold medalist missed joining fancied Nasa Hataoka at 65 and moved closer to Sagstrom, who led the assault with a solid 9-under 63 for a one-stroke lead over American Megan Khang in the $3 million event.

Pagdanganan had missed the cut in her last two LPGA tournaments while dealing with tendonitis but regained her form during the US Open elims.

“I would definitely say that the US Open qualifier was a bit of a kickstart. I wasn’t playing great leading up to that week. I was very, very stressed. I just felt like I had no control of my game,” she said. “I’ve tried to take everything hole-by-hole and I think it’s been working out pretty well and I’ve figured out a new way to help myself out on the course.”

Saso, in contrast, has lots of catching up to do after another wild round marred by three bogeys and a double bogey against four birdies, her 73 dropping her below the projected cutoff line.

Playing in her last tournament before her defense of the US Women’s Open crown, Saso missed four fairways and seven greens but used 28 putts to save a 36-37 for a share of 92nd a slew others, including Ardina, in a starting field of 144.

Ardina, who recently scored a breakthrough on the Epson Tour, matched Pagdanganan’s output of 140 at Fort Myers but settled for the first alternate spot.

Like Saso, Ardina went on a roller-coaster round at the Upper Montclair layout, mixing four birdies with five bogeys on four missed fairways and nine missed greens and 28 putts.





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