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Pagdanganan falters after impressive start, ends up with 74

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Pagdanganan falters after impressive start, ends up with 74
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's hot start and strong potential in the KPMG Women’s Open Championship took a turn on moving day as she struggled with a two-over 74 in the third round Saturday, virtually bowing out of title contention heading into the final stretch in Sammamish, Washington.

Pagdanganan seemed to have figured out the challenging Sahalee Country Club course after back-to-back rounds of 72, hitting two birdies in the first six holes of the pivotal round to vault into the Top 10. However, the ICTSI-backed ace encountered a tough stretch, dropping four strokes over six holes starting from the eighth, which pushed her down the leaderboard.

A birdie on the par-3 17th briefly rekindled hopes of a comeback, especially with a birdie opportunity on the par-5 closing hole. Unfortunately, she holed out with a bogey instead, ending up with a 36-38.

Her three-round total of 218 left her in a tie for 25th, nine strokes behind the steady Amy Yang, who moved on the verge of victory with a gritty 71, totaling 209.

Yang leads Lauren Hartlage and Miyu Yamashita by two strokes, the latter duo carding 69 and 70, respectively, for a total of 211. Former leader Sarah Schmelzel slipped to fourth at 212 after a round of 74 but remained in contention for her first LPGA victory in the $10.4 million championship.

The competition heated up as Lilia Vu and Caroline Inglis charged back into contention with rounds of 68 and 69, respectively, tying with former World No. 1 Jin Young Ko, Lexi Thompson, and Hinako Shibuno, who all carded 73s, at 213. This sets up an exciting final round where no lead is secure on the tight Sahalee course, where slight mistakes can lead to significant repercussions.

Despite her powerful 283-yard average drives on moving day, Pagdanganan struggled with accuracy, hitting just six fairways and missing nine greens in regulation. Her putting was commendable with 28 putts, but she struggled around the greens, saving just one par in three bunker visits.

Meanwhile, Yuka Saso, the reigning US Women’s Open champion whose campaign is also supported by one of the world’s leading port operators, had an even tougher day. After barely making the cut with rounds of 74-75, Saso faltered with two double bogeys in her first six holes on the back nine, where she started. She never recovered, finishing with two more bogeys against a birdie and a string of pars for a disappointing 77, dropping to a tie for 67th with a total of 226.

Despite the setbacks, both Pagdanganan and Saso are determined to rebound in the final 18 holes, aiming to regain their confidence and build momentum for the next LPGA event in Michigan next week, the season’s fourth major, the Evian Championship, in France, and eventually the Paris Olympics.

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BIANCA PAGDANGANAN

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