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Bianca drives way to world No. 234 in record fashion

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A breakthrough Top 10 finish in a major debut, a sustained reign in driving derby and a record one-week jump in the world rankings.

Things just continue to fall for Bianca Pagdanganan after a rather shaky, forgettable four-tournament campaign to launch her rookie season in the world’s biggest golf stage.

Though she made the cut in her first four regular LPGA Tour events, the 22-year-old ball striker came into the Women’s PGA Championship way, way down at No. 712 in the world rankings but beguilingly emerged from it at No. 234, her stirring 478-spot leap besting the previous best of 280 made by German Sophia Popov in her British Women’s Open romp last August.

Staying on top of the LPGA Tour’s driving race with 286.206-yard norm for quite sometime now, Pagdanganan checked an impending skid and closed out with a birdie to salvage a 73 in the final round of the Women’s PGA at the Aronimink Golf Club in Pennsylvania last Sunday and save a share of ninth in her maiden major foray.

The feat also netted her a coveted berth in the Tour's next major ­– the US Women’s Open on Dec. 10-13 at the Champions Golf Club in Houston.

Meanwhile, the ICTSI-backed ace hopes her record surge in the world ranking would merit her a spot in the next Tour event, the LPGA Drive On Championship in Greensboro, Georgia on Oct. 22-25.

“I’m still waiting on the next tournament in Georgia since I’m third alternate,” said Pagdanganan, who started out at No. 798 in her Tour debut in the Drive On Championship in Ohio last July where she tied for 28th. She hardly moved to No. 733 with a tied for 59th finish in the Marathon Classic, also in Ohio, last Aug., ended at joint 71st in the Walmart NW Arkansas in Arizona, also last Aug., and dropped to No. 749, then shared 64th place in the Portland Classic in Oregon last month.

Popov, 27, was ranked No. 304 before the British Open but her two-stroke triumph over Thai Jasmine Suwannapura enabled her to climb to No. 24 for a 280-rung leap, according to Golfworld.

American Meaghan Francella, then ranked No. 330 in the world, set the previous biggest jump in rankings when she ruled the LPGA Tour’s MasterCard Classic in 2007, gaining 253 rungs for No. 77.

Jessica Korda also posted a stirring 203-spot jump in 2012 when she won the ISPS Women’s Australian Open while ranked No. 285 to No. 82.

Pagdanganan also moved past veteran Dottie Ardina, who is at No. 312, although the big-hitting 22-year-old shotmaker remains too far behind the Philippines’ leading player in the rankings, 2018 Asian Games teammate Yuka Saso, who is at No. 76, largely due to her exploits in the LPGA of Japan Tour where she has annexed two victories in eight tournaments.

Her No. 234 ranking is actually too low a spot to be talked about at this stage but if she sustains her top form and further gains in the rankings, Pagdanganan could also make a strong case for an Olympic berth in Japan next year. The Philippines has two spots in the 60-player cast with Saso at No. 30 and Ardina, at No. 54. (Jeanne Cortez)

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