MANILA, Philippines – It’s a brand-new week so Bianca Pagdanganan is in for a brand new start, releasing all the pent-up emotions of a forgettable campaign the last time out as she preps up for women’s golf biggest stage — the US Women’s Open — beginning Thursday at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas.
The 23-year-old power hitter sampled one of the two courses set to host the first 36 holes of the milestone 75th staging of the championship and liked what she saw.
“The course is playing long with huge greens,” said the LPGA Tour’s driving leader whose game could suit up best for either the Cypress Creek or Jackrabbit courses or both in the first two rounds.
Because of the dwindling daylight during the winter season, the championship, held annually in June before the pandemic, will be played on two courses for the first time with those making the 36-hole cut disputing the coveted crown at the Cypress Creek in the weekend.
While keeping her run of consecutive cuts made in the LPGA Tour, the ICTSI-backed rookie placed 76th and last in the last Sunday’s Volunteers of America in The Colony, Texas, her campaign hobbled by a shaky short game that she hopes to fine-tune this week.
But she keeps a positive mindset heading to the $5.5 million event which features the world’s best players, headed by the Top 5 — Jin Young Ko and Sei Young Kim of Korea, Americans Nelly Korda and Daniella Kang and Korean In Bee Park along with last year’s winner Jeongeun Lee6, also of Korea.
“Definitely, it’s a strong field with the best players in the world,” said Pagdanganan, who tied for ninth in her first major test, the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in Pennsylvania last October. “But it’s a brand new week and a different golf course so it just feels like a fresh start for me.”
Given the make-up and conditions of the course, former three-time Junior World champion, pro and coach Carito Villaroman, who handled Pagdanganan since she was 11, said distance, club selection and putting will be the challenge.
"The course is playing very long and the greens are so big, some are 50 yards long," said Villaroman, who described his ward as a fierce, skilled competitor.
Pagdanganan also relishes her reunion of sorts with Yuka Saso, who barged into town over the weekend after a remarkable rookie campaign in the LPGA of Japan Tour where she won two tournaments and turned in six Top 10 finishes to earn a spot in this year’s US Women’s Open.
“I just think it’s really cool that we’re now both professionals and that we’ve come such a long way,” said Pagdanganan, who teamed up with Saso and LK Go to deliver the first Asian Games gold medal in the sport for the Philippines in 2018 in Jakarta.
Saso took the individual gold in stirring come-from-behind fashion with Pagdanganan bagging the bronze before leading her own team of Go and Abby Arevalo to a sweep of the gold medals in last year’s SEA Games at Luisita.
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