Pagdanganan showing nerves of steel at Women’s PGA
South Korea’s Kim Sei-young, chasing her first major title, fired a three-under par 67 and stretched her lead to two strokes after Saturday’s third round of the Women’s PGA Championship.
The 27-year-old from Seoul, whose most recent of 10 LPGA victories came in last year’s Tour Championship, stood on seven-under 203 after 54 holes at Aronimink in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.
Kim, who led by a stroke when the day began, made six birdies against three bogeys, lipping out a six-foot par putt off the left edge of the cup at the par-4 18th to miss out on a three-shot advantage entering Sunday’s final round.
Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and Canada’s Brooke Henderson shared second on 205 with South Korean Park In-bee fourth on 206 and 22-year-old Filipino Bianca Pagdanganan fifth on 207 after a second straight 65.
Kim birdied the par-4 second and made bogey at the fourth, then answered with three birdies in a row starting at the par-3 fifth. She opened and closed the back nine with bogeys but offset that with birdies at 15 and the par-5 16th.
“On 10, a missed tee shot led to a bogey, but I got my composure back and I’m glad I finished strong,” Kim said. “The last bogey on 18 was disappointing, too.
“I wouldn’t say I’m nervous, but I’m excited about going into the final day. I just want to take each shot at a time and just keep focus, and the results will follow.”
Two-time major winner Nordqvist, who ran off three birdies in a row starting at the sixth hole, bounced over the 18th green on the way to a bogey that dropped her level with Henderson.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Nordqvist said. “The wind makes it really tough out there and it felt like it was a lot of tucked pins there on the back nine. I hit a lot of good shots and kept my patience up out there.
“I feel like on this course anything can happen, but I’m just happy to be in a good position.”
Henderson, whose lone major win came at the 2016 Women’s PGA, reeled off five birdies in an 11-hole span from the second through the 12th in a bogey-free round to grab a share of second with a 65 after an opening 71.
“Just a little more comfortable on this golf course, knowing it a little bit more,” Henderson said. “I gave myself a lot of looks and made quite a few putts too.
“I made good decisions. I put myself in a good spot so hopefully, I have a chance tomorrow.”
Park plays it smart
Reigning Olympic champion Park, a seven-time major winner and three-time Women’s PGA champion, pulled within reach with a 66.
“I was pretty calm. I was trying to put up a number to maybe give myself a chance going into tomorrow,” Park said.
“I feel like I played really smart. The course is playing tough but if you play smart around it there is a way to make a birdie.”
Pagdanganan overcame the nerves of her first major start to give herself a chance at a stunning victory.
“This is my first major ever, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous,” she said. “I guess it was more of just me being able to embrace my nerves and playing with whatever I have.
“I just enjoyed my last two rounds. I was a little bit more nervous than excited on my first round.”
Sitting five strokes adrift on 208 were Mexico’s Gaby Lopez, Spain’s Carlota Ciganda and Americans Mina Harigae and Jennifer Kupcho. Japan’s Nasa Hataoka was another stroke back.