ON A bright, sunny day, the Philippines' Bianca Pagdanganan stumbled and fell.
The 22-year-old Pagdanganan fired a forgettable 77 in the third round on Saturday (Sunday, PH time), and kissed her title bid goodbye with still one round left in the LPGA Marathon Classic in Sylvania,Ohio.
A day after carding a brave 67 that put her in the thick of the fight, Pagdanganan made a horrendous turn in the last nine holes this time and found herself in the near-bottom of the 80-player field at 213, well behind New Zealand's Lydia Ko.
After conquering the Highland Meadows with a 67 on a pair of rare eagles Friday and gaining a spot in the Top 10, Pagdanganan lost her rhythm while tackling the unreceptive greens at the back, limping home with an awful 42 for that six-over card.
“It happens. I ended my first nine (35) pretty good and I thought I could keep the momentum going,” said the ICTSI-backed Pagdanganan, who checked a three-bogey mishap from No. 3 with back-to-back birdies from No. 8 to track down on the leaders.
But she bogeyed Nos. 10 and 14 and dropped two strokes on Nos. 11 and 15 against a birdie on No. 16 and muffed birdie chances in the last two holes, which she eagled from 10 feet in the second round.
“The greens at the back were a lot firmer than what I expected, so it was quite an adjustment from the soft surface that we’ve been playing. But there’s still a round left,” she added.
But with an even 213 total and now 16 strokes off Ko, the 22-year-old Pagdanganan would need to go low Sunday to gain ground in the $1.7 million championship.
Dottie Ardina, meanwhile, bucked the odds and shot a two-under 69, improving further to joint 49th at 211 but stood 14 shots behind the fired-up Ko, who gunned down two late birdies to anchor a 68 for a 16-under 197.
The former world No. 1 Ko, who had gone 44 tournaments worldwide without a win, thus built a four-shot cushion on last week’s Drive On Championship winner Danielle Kang, who birdied No. 17 to save a 70 for a 201 while Minjee Lee of Australia and England’s Jodi Shadoff pooled identical 203s after a 68 and 73, respectively.
After going two-over par with a bogey on the par-4 10th, Pagdanganan drove into the rough on No. 11, hit a flyer before the pin but the ball rolled past the sleek surface. She chipped in but it rolled again off the green and needed another chip before two-putting for 6.
After two pars and another bogey, the Pinay ace hit an errant drive into the trees in a sandy spot of the par-4 No. 15, pulled her second shot to the left and into the trees again and was left short sided.
“I tried my best to get out but the ball rolled into the bunker and my bogey-putt lipped out,” rued the Univ. of Arizona State product.
While she continued to flaunt her driving prowess (291 yards), Pagdanganan missed half of the 14 fairways and failed to reach regulation five times. She also struggled in the bunkers, going 0-of-3, and ended up with 35 putts after going 28 and 27 in the first two days.