Pagdanganan upbeat as CME Championship unfolds

Dante Navarro (The Philippine Star) – December 18, 2020 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Bianca Pagdanganan expects to get going early on a course that suits her game, seeking no less than a strong start and a stronger finish in the final LPGA Tour event – the CME Group Tour Championship which reels off Thursday at the posh Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Florida.

The 23-year-old rookie Tour driving leader is using her setback in last week’s US Women’s Open as motivation to do better this week. But it’s the Tiburon Golf Club’s Gold course, a Greg Normal-designed layout, that fires her up all the more.

“I love the course. I actually enjoyed playing it,” said Pagdanganan, set to launch her drive on No. 10 at 10:17 a.m. with England’s Charley Hull and driving rival Maria Fassi of Mexico.

“I feel like some holes you got to know – pick the right spots off the tee,” she said. “Overall, I think it’s a great course. It’s in really good condition, especially with the PGA Tour having a tournament here last week. So that’s pretty cool. Yeah, going to be a fun week.”

And challenging.

For the world’s best are all in the fold, headed by world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, who churned out a strong joint runner-up finish in the US Women’s Open to clinch a berth in the $3 million championship featuring players who accumulated points at each official LPGA Tour event throughout the pandemic-hit season.

Also seeing action are defending champion and world No. 2 Sei Young Kim, Inbee Park, Danielle Kang, Nasa Hataoka, Ally Ewing, Minjee Lee, Austin Ernst, Amy Olson, Angela Stanford, Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Jennifer Kupcho and So Yeon Ryu.

After finishing tied for 28th for her best finish in four starts in her rookie LPGA season, the ICTSI-backed Pagdanganan dished out an impressive joint ninth effort in her first Major, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship second week of October, then placed solo third in the LPGA Drive On Championship for her best finish the following week.

But the University of Arizona product and 2019 SEA Games double gold medalist failed to sustain that momentum and struggled to joint 34th in the Pelican Women’s Championship then ended up 76th and last in the Volunteers of America Classic before the US Women’s Open.

But she brims with confidence heading to this week’s event, which she said is one of her biggest goals when she set out for her maiden campaign that however got stymied by the pandemic.

“Overall, it’s been a great year for me in terms of golf and being able to play my way into the CME,” she said.

Now, it’s all up to her to produce such a finish to an inspiring rookie campaign.

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