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Filipina golfers launch bids in LPGA, Epson tours

MANILA, Philippines – Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan drew same tee times but on opposite nines as they kick off their campaign against the world’s best in the Mizuho Americas Open unfolding Thursday at the Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey (Friday Manila time).

Saso, who tied for seventh in last year’s event, has been paired with Paula Reto and Lizette Salas, teeing off at 12:27 p.m. on No. 1; while Pagdanganan starts at the backside alongside Hee Young Park and Gemma Dryburgh. Both ICTSI-backed aces aim for strong starts to fuel their respective bids in the $3 million championship in Jersey City.

Saso, the 2021 US Women’s Open champion, recently finished joint 29th in the Cognizant Founders Cup in Clifton, also in New Jersey. She is motivated to improve her performance this week in preparation for the US Women’s Open, scheduled May 30-June 2 in Pennsylvania.

Pagdanganan, looking to recover from a missed cut stint last week, is also determined to make an early impact.

Focus, however, will be on Rose Zhang, who beat Madelene Sagstrom by two in Founders Cup in a victory that further bolstered her confidence for this week’s championship, which she won via playoff over Jennifer Kupcho in her pro debut.

Zhang, now ranked No. 6 in the world ranking, clashes with Albane Valenzuela and Lydia Ko at 7:55 a.m. on No. 10, while Kupcho launches her drive at 7:11 a.m. on the first hole in the company of Aditi Ashok and Frida Kinhult.

Other featured matchups include world No. 1 Nelly Korda, who slugs it out with Atthaya Thitikul and Ayaka Furue at 7:44 a.m. on No. 10, and world No. 3 Celine Boutier, who faces Pajaree Anannarukarn and Ashleigh Buhai at 1:11 p.m. on No. 10.

Meanwhile, in Utah, Dottie Ardina tangles with Haylee Harford and Sophie Hausmann as she launches her drive for a second championship in the Copper Rock Championship beginning Thursday at the Copper Rock Golf course in Hurricane.

Ardina, 30, ruled this tournament in 2022 for her first Epson Tour victory with the veteran campaigner eager to continue her strong form following a joint runner-up finish in the Casino del Sol Classic in Arizona and a joint 11th place finish in the Arizona Women’s Classic