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Yuka Saso off to strong start in ANA Inspiration, trails leader by 3

Top Filipino golfers Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan found themselves in contrasting fates after the opening round of the 2021 ANA Inspiration Golf Tournament, the first major of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, at the Mission Hills Country Club, Rancho Mirage in California, Friday morning (Manila time). 

Saso, who was recently hailed the 2020 PSA Athlete of the Year, took a break from JLPGA action to participate in this SoCal tournament. The Filipino-Japanese teen tasted pole position but eventually landed at a tie for eighth place with 3-under 69.

Starting early in the second flight, the 2018 Asian Games champion opened her round with a strong three-birdie backside to register 3-under 33.

She then took the par-5 no. 2 in four hits to grab the early lead, but a bogey five holes after pushed her back to 3-under 69, just three strokes away from current leader Patty Tavanakit of Thailand who zoomed to a 6-under 66 on the strength of three consecutive birdies.

On the other hand, Bianca Pagdanganan finally made her start in the LPGA this year after she missed the previous qualifiers. She, however, struggled in the middle of the course to be at 3-over 75 and a tie for 93rd place.

The 2019 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist had to revert back to her original spot at 167th in the priority list because of the decision of the tour officials to freeze the LPGA status of the current players. Nonetheless, Pagdangangan’s finish at the top 80 of the money board last year made her eligible for the tour’s first majors.

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The 23-year-old showed what the tour missed taking the first two holes with a stroke less for an early 2-under 7 line. Two bogeys in the next holes before a double bogey in No. 9, however, negated the strong start and took her 2-over 38 at the turn.

Another bogey in the following hole pushed her 3-over 75 at the end, as she was able to cancel out her bogeys in Nos. 13 and 17 with a birdie in the immediate next hole.

Saso will take on the course for Round 2 on Friday, 12 p.m. (3 a.m. Saturday, Philippine time), while Pagdangan will start from the backside at 7:10 a.m. (10:10 p.m. here).

Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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