Bianca tops in driving, ties for 28th

August 03, 2020

The Philippines'  Bianca Pagdanganan earned a $6,862 paycheck in her first foray in the LPGA Tour debut, while emerging No. 1 in driving and finishing in joint 28th with a second straight 73 in the Drive On Championship won by world No. 4 Danielle Kang in Toledo, Ohio Sunday.

The 22-year-old  Southeast Asian Games double gold medalist birdiedt two of the three par-5 for the second straight day, while gaining another stroke on the par-3 12th to finish with a 37-36 card under tough, changing conditions.

Counting her opening 74 in a round she highlighted by going  four-under on the long holes, the US-based Filipina shotmaker, who normed an impressive 295-yard driving distance in three days, pooled a 220 to end up tied with 11 others at 28th.

“Overall, it was a good experience although I wish I could’ve done better,” Pagdanganan told veteran sportswriter Dante Navarro. “I played in tough conditions so I’m satisfied with how I finished.”

She beat Maria Fassi (290) and Anne Van Dam (286) for driving honors.

The 22-year-old University of Arizona product hopes to do better in the Marathon Classic, the last of back-to-back championships in Ohio marking the return of the circuit after a long break due to pandemic. The $2 million event unfolds Thursday (Friday in Manila) in Sylvania.

“I guess I could’ve hit more greens. I wasn’t hitting that great so hopefully my ball-striking gets better in the Marathon Classic,” said Pagdanganan, who also posted a 71.11 percent driving accuracy for No. 94.

But she struggled in other facets of the game, ending up No. 152 in greens in regulation (57.41%), No. 72 in putting per GIR (1.81) and No. 172 in sand saves (14.29%).

Kang held off France's Celine Boutier over the final holes to win the championship, the tour's first tournament since February after a COVID-19 shutdown.

It was the fourth career title for the 27-year-old American, whose first win was a major, the 2017 Women's PGA Championship, and whose other two came at Shanghai in 2018 and 2019.

"I worked really hard for the last seven months," Kang said. "I'm really excited right now."

Kang fired a two-under par 70 to finish 54 holes at Iverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, on 7-under 209, one shot better than Boutier, who missed a four-foot birdie putt on the last hole that would have forced a playoff.

Boutier was alone in second after a closing 71 with Australian Minjee Lee third on 212, Japan's Yui Kawamoto fourth on 213 and England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff fifth on 214 after a closing 75.

The LPGA managed to play only two events in January in the United States and two more in February in Australia before the season was stopped by the global pandemic.