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Pagdanganan finishes strong to salvage 73

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It wasn't the kind of start she had expected to launch her bid in the 2020 LPGA Tour's final event. But Bianca Pagdanganan put up a kind of finish that could drive her to back into the thick of things in the next three days.

The rookie Pinay ace birdied two of the last three holes at the front of Tiburon Golf Club's Golf course, not enough to overcome a disastrous triple-bogey mishap on No. 3 but just in time to give her some kind of a push when she resumes her campaign in the CME Group Tour Championship led by Lexi Thompson in Naples, Florida Thursday.

Though she lay eight strokes off the hot-starting American, the ICTSI-backed Pagdanganan’s late rally netted her a 36-37 card and moved her from near-bottom of the select 72-player field to joint 45th in the $3 million event closing out the pandemic-hit year of the world’s premier ladies tour.

But it would take her a lot of hard work and catching up to do in the next three days to further improve given the kind of start Thompson and a slew of aces had dished out in a day of torrid scoring at the Tiburon Golf Club’s Gold course with 24 players breaking par and nine others matching par 72.

Thompson, who like Pagdanganan and a number of others in the fold had missed the cut in last week’s US Women’s Open, came out smoking with five birdies in the first seven holes, including three straight from No. 2.

She stumbled with a bogey on the ninth but fired three more birdies at the back for a 32-33 card and a one-stroke lead over Dane Nanna Madsen, who shot a bogey-free 66.

American Megan Khang, Korean world No. 2 Sei Young Kim and German Caroline Masson all carded 67s while world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, who earned a ticket here with a joint runner-up finish in the US Women’s Open, bucked a double bogey on No. 3 and a bogey on the 12th with seven birdies to finish with a 68.

Joining her at sixth are Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, Cristie Kerr of the US, Swede Anna Nordqvist, Aussie Minjee Lee and Mexico’s Maria Fassi, who outgunned Pagdanganan in a duel of long-hitters.

The 23-year-old Pinay rookie, who had expressed her liking for the Greg Norman-designed layout, fumbled with a bogey on No. 10 where she teed off but broke a run of eight pars with back-to-back birdies from No. 1.

But she mishit her drive on the par-4 third hole. Deeming it went out-of-bounds, she hit a provisional ball to the same direction. After a search, she found the second ball and took a two-stroke penalty for unplayable lie. She punched out and reached the green in 6 before putting from 18 feet for a triple-bogey.

Reeling from that misfortune, Pagdanganan dropped another stroke on No. 5 but gathered her strength and regained her composure to birdie Nos. 7 and 9. Jeanne Cortez

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