Furue takes control; Pagdanganan, Saso rebound

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Furue takes control; Pagdanganan, Saso rebound
Ayaka Furue of Japan tees off during round two of the HSBC Women's World Championship golf tournament at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore on March 1, 2024.
Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP

MANILA, Philippines -- What she lacked in length, Ayaka Furue made up with her exceptional putting as she came away with a four-under 68 to wrest control by two in the third round of the Women’s World Championship at Sentosa’s Tanjong Course in Singapore Saturday.

The diminutive Japanese showcased her putting prowess early, birdying the first two holes to take command and efficiently navigating a late downpour with crucial pars to move on top of the stellar field at 10-under 206.

Australian Hannah Green likewise used a fiery start of three birdies in the first eight holes then birdied two of the last three to shoot a 67, placing her in the challenger’s role at 208.

Meanwhile, halfway leader Celine Boutier struggled early on, reeling back with three bogeys against a birdie after six holes. But the Frenchwoman made a spectacular eagle from the rough on the par-5 No. 8 then settled for a run of pars to save a 72.

The former major winner, however, slipped to joint third at 209 with American Andrea Lee, who overcame a mishap on No. 3 with six birdies on her way to a 67.

Defending back-to-back champion Jin Young Ko also sizzled in moving day, hitting four birdies in the last seven holes to post the day’s best score of 66 as the Solaire-backed former world No. 1 tied for fifth with three others at 210, four strokes off the pace.

Other six-under overall scorers were Korean Hye Jin Choi, who shot a 69, and Taiwanese Peiyun Chien and Japanese Nasa Hataoka, who matched 70s.

Bianca Pagdanganan broke a run of backside pars with three birdies in a frontside finish as she carded a bogey-free 69 to improve to a share of 28th at 216. ICTSI teammate, on the other hand, Yuka Saso fired a 68 for joint 33nd at 217 with five others, including Lydia Ko and Minjee Lee, who turned in 71 and 72, respectively.

Furue relied on her accuracy with a 244-yard driving clip, hitting 11 fairways and though she missed six greens, she flashed her putting skills with a 26-putt performance on the slick putting surface.

Just a stroke behind Boutier Friday, Furue birdied the first two holes to move on top and stayed in control with birdies on No. 5 and 7, threatening to pull away by three or four shots as her nearest rivals struggled in soft conditions.

But the Japanese, who scored her LPGA breakthrough in the Scottish Open in 2022, also missed a couple of birdie chances, including from four feet on No. 4, then hit an errant approach shot on the challenging No. 12, enabling her rivals to pull within sight.

Pagdanganan, on the other hand, increased her driving distance to a 293-yard norm, hitting all but two fairways. Though she missed regulation five times, the University of Arizona product demonstrated superb recovery, saving three pars and finishing with 28 putts.

After struggling to net a birdie at the back, she birdied the first two holes at the front then gained another stroke on the par-5 No. 5 and parred the last four.

Saso, also a noted long hitter, settled for a 245-yard average off the mound and hit 11 fairways. She missed four greens and wound up with 29 putts.

She quickly bounced back from a bogey on No. 10 with three birdies in the next eight holes then closed out with three birdies in the last six holes to negate another miscue on the third.

In New Zealand, Justin delos Santos and Justin Quiban failed to sustain their second round charge as the former matched par 71 and the latter skied to a 75 to tumble after 54 holes of the New Zealand Open at the Millbrook Golf Resort’s dual courses in Arrowtown, Millbrook Saturday.

Matthew Griffin shot a 67 at the par-71 Millbrook layout to tie fellow Aussie and erstwhile leader Scott Hend, who slowed down with a 69, at 199, just a stroke ahead of Japanese Kodai Ichihara and Takahiro Hataji and localJosh Greary, setting the stage for a wild final round chase in the NZ$2 million championship.

Ichihara delivered the tournament-best 63, while Hataji and Geary carded 66 and 68, respectively, for a three-day haul of 200s.

Another shot back at 201 are South African Ian Snyman and Taichi Kho of Hong Kong, who put in 65 and 67, respectively.

Delos Santos, who rebounded with a 68 Friday, hit three birdies but stumbled with the same number of bogeys for a 37-34 to drop to a share of 70th at 209.

Quiban produced three birdies but hobbled with five bogeys and a double-bogey to end up with a 38-37 and slip to second-to-last at 77th spot with 212.

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