Golf: Does Houston course give Pagdanganan, Saso advantage at US Open?

Adrian Flores

Posted at Dec 11 2020 01:35 AM

Golf: Does Houston course give Pagdanganan, Saso advantage at US Open? 1
Bianca Pagdanganan of the Philippines watches her tee shot during a practice round prior to the 75th US Women's Open Championship at Champions Golf Club on December 9, 2020 in Houston. Carmen Mandato, Getty Images North America via AFP

While all the hype goes to the likes of how Jeongeun Lee will defend her crown or how Jin Young Ko will play being the No. 1 female golfer in the world, add to that the debuts of Filipina stars Bianca Pagdanganan and Yuka Saso, there are other subplot that have been set aside relating to the US Women’s Open in Houston.

One of them is the Champions Golf Club, site of this year’s 75th edition. 

For the first time in its rich history, the tournament will be played on two courses — Jackrabbit and Cypress Creek (each designed with distinct characteristics) — during the first two rounds to help offset the reduced daylight time and keep the championship on schedule.

“The Cypress Creek is playing pretty long with huge greens,” Pagdanganan said, although it may not be a problem for her, because she is the LPGA’s driving leader with a 284.7-yard norm. 

It is interesting to note that the organizing US Golf Association couldn’t have timed it better than to bring together the LPGA Tour’s driving leaders in one flight.

Pagdanganan will be bunched with long hitters Dutch Anne Van Dam (281.8 yards) and Mexican Maria Fassi of Mexico (280.4 yards) at 12:10 p.m. (Eastern Time) at No. 10 of the 6,558-yard Jackrabbit course.

“But we are not limiting ourselves to just drives off the tees. We practiced hard in every aspect that past two days,” says coach Carito Villaroman, who flew to Texas to watch her ward compete with the world’s best.

The Jackrabbit, though, is the opposite because it plays shorter with small greens.

“I guess the biggest challenge would really boil down to who putts the best,” Villaroman states. “Bianca and even Saso know they have put a premium on reading the greens and making putts fall.”

Meanwhile, Saso, also a certified power-hitter like her fellow ICTSI-backed compatriot, hopes to make an impact in her maiden major LPGA Tour appearance she earned by dishing out an impressive campaign anchored on two victories in her rookie season in the LPGA of Japan Tour.

The 19-year-old Fil-Japanese is set to start at Cypress Creek at 12:32 p.m. with Korean Hee Young Park and top amateur Fil-Am Allisen Corpuz, whose dad is a Filipino and mom a Korean.

“I can see that Yuka is eager to compete here,” Villaroman added.

Experts, however, noted that the chilly December weather in Houston may slow down the bombers from setting distance records. The forecast for the tournament days, fortunately for all concerned, is tolerable, in the 60 and low 70 degrees Farenheit with a few showers along the way. 

This weather may not be the best for Pagdanganan, who last week finished at the bottom of the Volunteers of America Classic in similar conditions.

“Bianca already know how to deal with it, thanks to the experience at the VOA Classic. She’s very much ready,” Villaroman said.