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Saso, Pagdanganan stay way off; Hataoka-Yang seal title clash

MANILA, Philippines -- Yuka Saso rallied in time to rescue a second straight 69, but Bianca Pagdanganan tripped at the finish for a 70 as the duo bowed out of the title chase in the CME Group Tour Championship heading to a two-player showdown in Naples, Florida.

Japanese Nasa Hataoka stayed at the helm for the third straight day with a 65 Saturday (Sunday Manila time) but found a new co-leader in Korean Amy Yang, whose solid 64 lifted her from joint third to a share of the lead at 21-under 195 at the Tiburon Golf Club’s Gold course.

Hataoka and Yang thus braced for a day-long shootout for the top $2-million purse as they moved three strokes clear of erstwhile co-leader Alison Lee of the US, who dropped to third at 198 after a bogey-free 68.

Chinese Xiyu Lin stood a shot farther back at 199 after a 66 while Aussie Minjee Lee and Ruoning Yin, also from China, matched 200s with a pair of 69s.

Seven strokes off the pace halfway through the $7-million season-ending championship, Saso tried to wage her fightback with birdies on Nos. 2 and 6. But she fell back with a mishap on the par-3 No. 8 and a couple of missed chances in the next six holes kept her way off the frontrunners.

Though she birdied Nos. 15 and 17 to save a 35-34, the ICTSI-backed shotmaker dropped a spot from her previous joint 16th place position to a share of 17th at 10-under 206, 11 strokes off the joint leaders.

She rued shaky putting in her failed bid to mount a searing rally in moving day as she finished with 32 putts following another sterling stint from the tee to the greens that saw her hit all but two fairways and reached regulation 17 times.

Gaining 22 rungs to tied 33rd with a second round 66 Friday, Pagdanganan scrambled in hunt for early birdies but ended up yielding a stroke instead on No. 5. But after a missed opportunity on the par-5 No. 6, she birdied Nos. 9 and 10 and added two more on Nos. 15 and 17, only to hole out with another bogey on the 18th.

Unlike Saso, Pagdanganan flourished on the greens with 26 putts. But though she missed just two fairways, the power-hitting ace, whose campaign is also sponsored by the world's leading port operator, missed seven greens, including a bunker