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Bianca Pagdanganan / 2020 Getty Image

Bianca sizzles with solid 65, gets into the mix

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An opening 77 in the Majors could be enough to shatter a rookie campaigner’s confidence. But Bianca Pagdanganan showed she’s made of sterner stuff, producing a mind-boggling 65 that earned her not only a spot in the weekend play of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship but also a crack at the crown.

That 12-shot turnaround proved to be the best in a day of changing fortunes and it was one of the only three five-under cards churned out at the wind-raked par-70 Aronimink Golf Club layout in Newport Square, Pennsylvania Friday, the two others posted by Korean Sei Young Kim and Jennifer Kupcho of the US, who seized the 1-2 spots halfway through the $4.3 million event.

From the brink of elimination at tied 113rd after 18 holes, the 22-year-old Pagdanganan now found herself at joint 24th at 142, still six shots behind Kim’s 136 but well within striking distance of the leaders littered with fancied names and a number of rising stars with 36 holes left to play in one of LPGA Tour’s major championships.

The circuit’s driving leader, who failed to get going despite blasting a 291-yard norm off the tee in the opener, toned down with her power and settled for a 267-yard clip, still not solid enough to improve on her 7-of-14 stint off the mound Thursday. But she came through with superb iron play and missed just four greens after hitting just nine in the first round then finished with 28 putts, four better than the previous day.

Pagdanganan’s big rebound likewise kept her pro stint perfect in terms of making the cut as she made it to the final two rounds for the fifth straight event, this time looking good and ready to better her best tied 28th finish in the LPGA Drive On Championship in Ohio.

The ICTSI-backed ace actually hardly moved up in the standings despite a one-birdie frontside game. But after she birdied No. 11 and added another on the par-3 14th, she banked on her power again to birdie the par-5 16th then capped her brilliant, bogey-free round with another birdie on the par-3 17th.

Kim, meanwhile, highlighted her own version of a 65 with five birdies in the last six holes as she wrested control with Kupcho, who also shot a solid 32-33 card, right behind at 137, the same output put in by Swede Anna Nordqvist, who fired a 68, and Daniella Kang of the US and Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, who both shot 69s.

Dottie Ardina, however, failed to recover from an opening 76 with a 77 for a 153 and missed the cut pegged at 146. (Jeanne Cortez)

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