Closing birdies keep Bianca in title chase

Dante Navarro (The Philippine Star) – October 26, 2020 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — One stroke behind, 18 holes left.

Rookie Bianca Pagdanganan moved in a spot she described as “weird” behind not just her vaunted power but an iron game that continued to get better and putting that she hoped would deliver in time.

“It seems pretty surreal being in this position in my career but at the same time exciting,” Pagdanganan told The STAR after wrapping up her third round stint with back-to-back birdies for a 69 Saturday, keeping her within a shot off American Ally McDonald heading to the final round of the LPGA Drive On Championship–Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia.

Not since Jennifer Rosales annexed her second LPGA crown via a two-stroke victory over Cristie Kerr in the SBS Open at Turtle Bay in Hawaii in 2005 had a Filipina came tantalizingly close to an LPGA glory.

And Pagdanganan could be just that player to snap that 15-year spell that would net her $195,000 (P9.4 million) right in her maiden season.

Standing her way is McDonald, who also carded a three-under card at Great Waters for a 13-under 203 aggregate with world No. 5 and two-leg winner Daniella Kang dropping behind Pagdanganan’s 204 with a 205 after a second 70.

That sealed another shootout among these three players of diverse backgrounds with McDonald seeking to nail her first championship in five years, Pagdanganan shooting for a breakthrough in just her sixth tournament and Kang eyeing a third crown in this pandemic-shortened LPGA season and sixth overall.

A spoiler in flights infront of them could emerge as Spain’s Carlota Ciganda rallied with a 68 to seize solo fourth at 206, Aussie Katherine Kirk moving to fifth at 207 after a 70 and Americans Mina Harigae and Brittany Altomare joining former world No. 1 and two-time major winner Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, who slowed down with a 72, at 208 with 68 and 70, respectively.

But with a well laid-out game plan and positive mindset, the ICTSI-backed Pagdanganan is more than ready to take any of them – shot-for-shot, putt-for-putt.

“I don’t think I have to do anything different (Sunday). I will just honestly trust my swing. I played good the past three rounds so I will just keep reminding myself to stick to my game plan,” said the 2019 SEA Games double gold medalist who is enjoying top form following a remarkable joint ninth finish in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, one of the Tour’s majors, in Pennsylvania two weeks ago.

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