McDonald clings to one-shot LPGA lead over Pagdanganan

Washington (AFP) –


Ally McDonald, hoping to win her first LPGA title, fired a three-under par 69 for a one-stroke lead after Saturday's third round of the Drive On Championship.

The American stood on 13-under 203 after 54 holes at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia.

Filipino Bianca Pagdanganan shot 69, the 22-year-old closing with back-to-back birdies to stand second on 204 with American Danielle Kang third on 205, Spain's Carlota Ciganda fourth on 206 and Australian Katherine Kirk fifth on 207.

World number 62 McDonald's best LPGA finishes have been two third-place showings, most recently at last year's ShopRite Classic.

She hopes for a breakthrough on her 28th birthday Sunday at an event that was created to fill in a gap between US events after the LPGA's usual Asian swing was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.

No spectators are allowed on the course but boaters on the lakeside layout honked horns for good shotmaking throughout the round.

World number 233 Pagdanganan, who turns 23 next week, hopes for her first LPGA triumph in only her sixth professional start.

Fifth-ranked Kang, who turned 28 on Tuesday won the LPGA's first two Covid-19 return events in August. She was to have been seeking a third consecutive LPGA crown in Shanghai this week befire Covid-19 wiped out the event.

McDonald, who began the day with a one-stroke lead on Pagdanganan and Kang, opened with a bogey but bounced back with a birdie at the fifth.

She reeled off three birdies in a row starting at the par-3 eighth, strong iron shots setting up short birdie putts followed by a long effort from off the green at 10, to reach 13-under.

Kang made bogey at the par-5 second but reeled off a three-birdie run of her own starting at the par-3 fourth, but a three-putt bogey at the 10th left her three adrift of the lead.

McDonald lipped out from the fringe on a birdie putt at 11 but birdied the par-5 12th to reach 14-under.

Kang birdied the par-4 13th and 15th to pull within two shots while McDonald salvaged par at 15 on a six-foot putt after finding a greenside bunker.

But Kang's tee shot at 16 soared right and out of bounds and she needed a 10-foot putt just to rescue double bogey. When McDonald chipped to three feet and sank a par putt, she reclaimed a four-stroke lead.

McDonald missed the green at the par-3 17th, barely reached the fringe with a pitch and sank a four-foot bogey putt while Pagdanganan birdied 17 and 18 to seize second alone.