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SAM HODDE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Fully recharged from a hard-fought 2023 season, Bianca Pagdanganan fires off the new year in tough Thailand.

Bianca Pagdanganan hopes to start the season in a big way, cashing in on her familiarity with the weather and closeness to home where she stayed for more than a month.

But it’s going to be a tall order for the 26-year-old Filipina golfing star. Because for one, the big names of the LPGA will be there standing in the way.

The Honda LPGA Thailand begins Thursday, touching off the LPGA Tour’s annual spring swing through Asia where the best players in the world will see action.

The $1.7 million event will be held at Siam Club Old course in Chonburi with a 72-man field led by defending champion Lilia Vu of the United States.

The Tour, which is only on its third event, will also make stops in Singapore and the People’s Republic of China.

Vu stormed to victory for the first time in the Tour at the Honda LPGA Thailand. Vu began the final round six strokes back of 54-hole leader Natthakritta Vongtaveelap but mounted a Sunday charge, which began with two birdies in her first three holes.

It was at this tournament that Vu kicked off her breakout season, including two major titles at The Chevron Championship and AIG Women’s Open.

She also topped The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican, and earned her Rolex Player of the Year honors.

Jin Young Ko of South Korea, who placed tied for sixth last year, is expected to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2023 this time around.

And of course, the Thai players will be strong contenders with Patty Tavatanakit headlining the local charge.

Tavatanakit returns to her home country of Thailand, where she’ll headline a contingent of nearly a dozen Thai players, including LPGA Tour winners Pajaree Anannarukarn, Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn and Chanettee Wannasaen.

Referred to as “Patty 2.0” following her game re-boot, she returned to the top of the heap after a seven-stroke victory in the Ladies European Tour’s Aramco Saudi Ladies International recently.

Because of the short off-season, several players skipped the first two events stateside and opted to begin the year in Thailand.

They include Anna Nordqvist, the three-time major champion who was winner in Thailand in 2014 and picked up a top-10 finish at Siam Country Club in 2023.

Aditi Ashok will also begin her eighth season as well as Ester Henseleit and major champ Hinako Shibuno.

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