Gritty Pagdanganan saves 2nd 72, stays in Women's PGA hunt

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Gritty Pagdanganan saves 2nd 72, stays in Women's PGA hunt
Bianca Pagdanganan of the Philippines hits a tee shot on the third hole during the first round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Sahalee Country Club on June 20, 2024 in Sammamish, Washington.
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images / AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Bianca Pagdanganan flashed resilience in a tough frontside finish, draining two long birdie putts to offset a double bogey on No. 8 and secure an even-par 72, placing her in a tie for 18th halfway through the KPMG Women’s Open Championship in Sammamish, Washington Friday (Saturday Manila time).

Despite slipping four spots, the power-hitting Filipina made a strong comeback with a 24-foot birdie on the seventh and a 16-footer on the ninth, balancing her earlier double bogey. The ICTSI-sponsored shotmaker's consistent performance of 36s led to a second straight 72 at the exacting Sahalee Country Club, positioning her six strokes behind leaders Sarah Schmelzel and Amy Yang.

Schmelzel, aiming for her first LPGA Tour win, and Yang both scored 138s, with Schmelzel leveraging an early tee time to card six birdies against a single bogey for a 67. Yang, in a bogey-free round, shot a 68 to join Schmelzel at the top, while former world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, Hinako Shibuno, and Lexi Thompson were close behind, ensuring a fierce competition for the $10.4 million championship.

The biggest surprise came from world No. 1 Nelly Korda, who took an exit from the season’s third major event. Tied for second after an opening 69, she faltered with bogeys on the first four holes, including a two-foot par putt miss on the third. Additional bogeys and a double bogey on the 15th resulted in an 81, her worst round, leading to a 150, just one stroke short of the cut.

Korda's early ouster was unexpected given her stellar start to the season, winning six of her first seven tournaments. It was, however, her third straight missed cut.

Other notable players who failed to advance were Nasa Hataoka (74-151), Sei Young Kim (75-151), Danielle Kang (74-152), and Megan Khang (76-157).

Dottie Ardina, after a promising start with two birdies, struggled with a series of bogeys, finishing with a 153.

Yuka Saso, despite entering with confidence from her recent US Women’s Open victory, barely made the cut. After a 74 on Thursday, she managed three birdies but was hampered by four bogeys and a double bogey, finishing with a 75 for a 149.

In contrast, Pagdanganan's consistent performance kept her in contention. Starting with a 72, she birdied two of the first three holes at the back nine despite a late start. Bogeys on Nos. 14 and 16 halted her progress, but a birdie on No. 3 and a long putt on the seventh put her back into the mix.

A double-bogey on the eighth and a shaky tee shot on the ninth, which landed safely on the green, showed her resilience as she completed her round with 29 putts, handling the challenging Sahalee greens effectively.

Pagdanganan's ability to recover from setbacks and her steady play have put her in a strong position going into the final two rounds. However, she will need a combination of favorable conditions and a bit of luck to push herself into title contention by Sunday.

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