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LPGT: Bianca Pagdanganan blows field with eagle-spiked 67


Bianca Pagdanganan got back at PK Kongkraphan in emphatic fashion, toppling the Thai ace with an eagle-spiked frontside assault and then sustaining her charge at the back to fire a 67 and take a commanding six-shot lead over Ya-Chun Chang and Pakin Kawinpakorn after 36 holes of the Anvaya Cove Ladies International in Morong, Bataan on Thursday.

An eagle on the par-4 No. 1 fueled Pagdanganan’s second round attack and she kept on firing and netting birdies the rest of the way while showing restraint to dominate the field, which succumbed in another wind-blown day when bogeys became the norm rather than the exception.

But as her rivals sputtered and hobbled in blustery conditions, the Filipina ace flourished, gunning down four birdies after a miscue on the par-5 No. 2 then rebounding from back-to-back mishaps from No. 12 with birdies on Nos. 15 and 18.

She surged ahead by three with a 33 at the turn and doubled it up at the finish with an eight-under 136 aggregate, including an opening round 69, for a whopping six-stroke bulge over Taiwan’s No. 1 and Kawinpakorn as Kongkraphan failed to recover from a costly double-bogey on No. 4 and limped with a 75 after a near-impeccable 68.

With a 143 total, the eight-year LPGA Tour veteran tumbled to fourth in a tie with compatriot Kultida Pramphun, who matched par 72, enabling Kawinpakorn, who fired a 70, and Chang, who carded a 72, to assume the challenger’s role at 142.

Thai Meechai Kusuma faltered with a 75 and slipped to sixth at 143, while Poruangrong Green also shot a 72 to tie compatriots Konsunthea Ornnicha and Jaengkit Chorphaka, who matched 73s for the second straight day, and Taiwanese Yi-Tsen Chou, who fumbled with a 76, at 146.

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“I’m pretty satisfied with how I played today. I got my goals – hit the fairways and greens. It’s important to keep the ball in play and I’m pretty sure I got it done for most part,” said Pagdanganan, who got going after her 9-iron approach shot from 142 yards on No. 1 hit the top of the edge and rolled into the cup.

“I thought it’s going to the bunker but it was a good shot and I got away with it,” she added.

All looked for a virtual repeat of the gripping first round skirmish when just three strokes separated seven players, including the fancied troika of Kongkraphan, Pagdanganan and Chang, in the $100,000 championship kicking off the 2023 Ladies Philippine Golf Tour and serving as the second leg of the LPGA of Taiwan Tour.

But things changed quickly and the breaks went Pagdanganan’s way, who bounced back strong from every miscue that spoke well of the character of the former SEA Games double gold medalist tracking the long road back to the LPGA.

“I made few errors but I kind of bounced back in the last four holes. It’s really important to stay patient out there with a lot of conditions – the winds and heat. It’s hard to stay in the moment,” stressed Pagdanganan, who moved 18 holes away from marking her first professional event in the country with a victory.
But it’s doubly tough for her pursuers to overhaul such a big lead in the last 18 holes.

“I had so many unlucky shots, and the winds are very strong,” rued Kongkraphan, who birdied the first hole and had braced herself for a protracted shootout with the top Filipina player until she fumbled with that double bogey on a couple of missed chip shots to the elevated green.

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Marvi Monsalve shared the spotlight by scoring a hole-in-one on the 161-yard No. 16 using a Srixon Forged 7-iron and Srixon ball #1. But she holed out with a disappointing wet quadruple-bogey on No. 9 and limped with a 78.

She wound up with a 159 and missed the 40-player cut by three.

Five other locals, however, advanced to the final round but out of title contention, including Harmie Constantino, who moved to joint 22nd at 150 after a gutsy 72; Daniella Uy, who tied for 26th at 151 after a 73; and Chanelle Avaricio, who hardly recovered from a 77 with a 76 for a share of 32nd at 153.

Reigning LPGT Order of Merit champion Chihiro Ikeda skied to a 78 to tie Sarah Ababa, who fought back with a 74, at 37th at 155, while Thai Queen Meesom-us and Japanese Akiko Echikawa took the last two spots at 156 after a 70 and 77, respectively.

Despite being behind by six, Chang remained upbeat of her chances, saying: “I’ll just take it step-by-step and will try to be patient as possible because the final round is going to be slow.”

But they would need a fast start to gain on Pagdanganan and hopefully stir up some play in a final round that could serve as a victory walk for the power-hitting Filipina.

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