Saso, Pagdanganan power way back into contention

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Saso, Pagdanganan power way back into contention
Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan

MANILA, Philippines – Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan pounded the long holes of the Siam Country Club’s Old course with their remarkable power as they fired 69 and a 68, respectively, keeping their respective bids alive after 36 holes of the Honda LPGA Thailand in Chonburi Friday.

Saso birdied all four par-5s, including the last hole on No. 18, overcoming a double bogey miscue on No. 6 to shoot a second straight three-under card and improve from a share of 19th to joint 17th with six others at 138.

She stood four strokes off the pace, though, as Swede Madelene Sagstrom and Thai Patty Tavatanakit matched 67s for the second straight day and capitalized on Sei Young Kim’s late-round mishaps to force a tie at 10-under 134.

The Korean grabbed the lead with a six-under card after 11 holes, highlighted by an eagle on No. 7. But she wavered with bogeys on Nos. 13 and 17 and slipped into a three-way tie with a 68.

With Swiss Albane Valenzuea shooting a 65, young Jaravee Boonchant carding a 67 and Korean Hyo Joo Kim putting in a 68 for 135s, the battle for third round control intensified. This even as Germany’s Esther Henseleit and Japan’s Ayaka Furue caught up with erstwhile leader Peiyun Chien at 136, setting the stage for an exciting battle in the pivotal round of the $1.7-million championship.

Henseleit produced a second straight 68, Furue made a 69 while Chien shot two birdies but fumbled with a double bogey on No. 15 for a 72 after a fiery 64 Thursday.

Meanwhile, Saso’s performance highlighted her caliber as a player seeking her first victory since the US Women’s Open in 2021. Despite some challenges, she recovered from errant shots and putting woes with a 28-putt showing.

After dominating the par-5 No. 1, Saso made a couple of mishits, leading to a 6 on the par-4 sixth. But she quickly regained the shots with birdies on Nos. 7, another par-5, and the par-3 eighth.

She used the momentum to pick up strokes on Nos. 10, the third long hole, and par-4 14th and rebounded from another mishap on No. 15 with that closing birdie for a 35-34.

Pagdanganan also put on display her shotmaking prowess missing in her first round 71 as she birdied all but one of the par-5s to fashion out a four-under card and jump from tied 42nd to a share of 24th at 139, five shots off the leaders.

Teeing off at the backside, Pagdanganan broke a spate of pars with a birdie on the par-4 No. 15 then birdied Nos. 18, 1 and 3 then bouncing back from a miscue on the challenging No. 6 with another birdie on the seventh on her way to a pair of 34s.

While ICTSI teammate Saso slowed down a 267-yard driving norm from a 278-yard clip in the first round, Pagdanganan improved her driving distance from 267 yards to 282 yards, hitting 11 fairways.

She also missed only three greens but wrestled a bit with her putter, missing a couple of chances and ending up with 30 putts.

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