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SHAKY START — Pagdanganan faces tall odds after falling 10 shots behind

‘I just tried to hit the fairway, hit the green, and just tried to make the putts.’

MIKE EHRMANN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE WITH a 10-stroke deficit staring at her, Bianca Pagdanganan undergoes a test of character in the second round.

FLORIDA (AFP) — Bianca Pagdanganan is bracing herself for a lot of catching up in Friday’s second round in the $7-million CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club Gold Course in Naples.

That is after the 26-year-old, one of the longest hitters in the tour, encountered rough patches in the opening round, carding a one-over 73 for a share of 55th place 10 shots off the leadership.

Already assured of playing regularly in the LPGA next year, Pagdanganan appeared to have jittery start with bogeys on the first, third, fifth, 15th and 18th.

She shot down Nos. 6, 9, 14 and 17 on a round that saw her hitting 13 of 14 fairways and making 15 greens in regulation.

Currently 55th in the CME list, Pagdanganan is vying for the money list and a strong finish in tourney ending the regular season.

Filipino-Japanese Yuka Saso is tied at 13th after a four-under-par 68.

China’s Yin Ruoning shook off her pre-round doubts to fire nine birdies in a nine-under-par 63 on Thursday and share the first-round lead with Japan’s Nasa Hataoka.

Hataoka also nabbed nine birdies without a bogey on a rain-softened Tiburon Golf Club course in Naples, Florida.

The leading duo were a stroke in front of Australian Minjee Lee, with Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist a further stroke back on 65.

Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit, England’s Georgia Hall, Choi Hye-jin of South Korea, Liu Yu of China and American Alison Lee were tied for fifth, three shots off the lead.

Yin said that warming up in the wind she “didn’t feel great about my swing.”

Encouraged by her coach, however, she stuck to a basic game plan, hitting every fairway in regulation and taking advantage of her birdie chances.

“I just tried to hit the fairway, hit the green, and just tried to make the putts,” she said. “And I’m doing good.”

Yin’s  two victories in 2023 include a major title at the Women’s PGA Championship. After trading the number one world ranking with Lilia Vu in recent months, she’s aiming to end her breakout campaign with one more prestigious victory in the season finale that this year carries a $2 million winner’s prize.

It wasn’t until after five birdies on the front nine, she said, that she started to think “OK, maybe today is the day. Maybe I can just go for it.”

Her last birdie of the day at the par-five 17th pulled her into a tie with Hataoka, the World No. 18 who is chasing a seventh LPGA title but her first since 2022.

World No. 1 Vu had four birdies and two bogeys in a two-under par 70 that left her tied for 32nd.

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