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Bianca on the brink

Filipina hikes lead over Thai to 5.

Bianca Pagdanganan put on a career-best bogey-free 65 in overcast skies yesterday and moved in the threshold of a breakthrough Philippine Ladies Open victory with a huge five-stroke lead over Thai Atthaya Thitikul in the second round at Wack Wack Golf and Country Club’s West Course in Mandaluyong.

Pagdanganan, 19, kept pounding the par-72 layout with brilliant shotmaking, superb iron shots and solid putting as the Gonzaga University sophomore bucked tough pin placements and produced seven birdies for a 32-33 card that served as a fitting follow-up to her opening 66 that put her ahead of the event’s fancied players, including Pauline del Rosario and Yuka Saso, Wednesday.

But while del Rosario grappled with her irons and putter and Saso faltered in the early going, Pagdanganan romped with her near-impeccable game, rattling off four birdies at the front, highlighted by a 20-footer on the first, then finishing with three more at the back, including the last two inside 15 feet.

That gave her an impressive 13-under 131 total, moving her 18 holes away from nailing the coveted crown in the Open division of the country’s premier championship presented by Champion Infinity and organized and conducted by the Women’s Golf Association of the Philippines.

“The pins were a bit tricky but it was my day and it couldn’t get any better than this,” said Pagdanganan, who also moved closer to ending a two-year title spell after topping the Edeon Ihlandfelt tournament in the US. “It’s actually my personal best and I’m ecstatic for doing it.”

Thitikul also turned in an imposing 66 spiked by a superb closing 30 but the 13-year-old Thai junior champion still stood far behind at 136 following a mediocre 70 in the opener and Pagdanganan’s flawless second day performance.

But she remained upbeat of her chances, so do the rest of the field still in the hunt for the coveted crown.

“My coach told me to follow the plan, which is to think of my own game and not of others,” said Thitikul, who actually rebounded from a two-bogey mishap after six holes with a stunning run of eight birdies in an 11-hole stretch, including three straight from No. 15.

Del Rosario, who started the round just two strokes off Pagdanganan, birdied two of the first eight holes but stumbled with two bogeys in the next six and flubbed three makeable birdie putts. She settled for a 72 and slid to 140, nine shots behind.

Saso, who finished tied for second with Del Rosario in last year’s edition of the annual event topped by Princess Superal at Midlands, also floundered in the early going and needed to produce a fiery windup to salvage a 72 and a 142.

Lois Go rallied with a 68 after a 75 to move to solo fifth at 143 while Bernice Ilas also fought back with a 70 for a 146 and Singaporean Jacqueline Young matched par 72 to tie Harmie Constantino, who faltered with a 76, at 1477.

Meanwhile, Malaysian siblings Noraishah and Norshahira Omar took the 1-2 spots in Class A as they shot identical 76s for a 158 and 162, respectively, while Korean Ju Young Yang and Nur Maisara Saad shared third at 163 with 82 and 81, respectively.

Terry Fasol, on the other hand, carded a 93 for a 193 as she took a two-shot lead over Gabrielle Tronco, who had a 99-195, in Class B with Ma. Consuelo Conti at third at 196 after a 92.

Other backers of the event are Lexus, Metro Pacific, Britanny, Eva Air, San Miguel, Inquirer, Cherrylume, Alveo, Manila Golf, G&W Clubshares, Alabang Ladies Golf Chapter, Canlubang Golf Club, Forest Hills Golf Club, Sta. Elena Golf Club, Tagaytay Higlands, Gatorade, Ladies Philippine Golf Tour, Vermogen, Atty. Gilberto Duavit and Water World Trading Inc.