Bianca Pagdanganan makes the cut on the dot

Bianca Pagdanganan makes the cut on the dot. —KEATS LONDON

Bianca Pagdanganan went under par at the right time, just enough to secure a Saturday tee time in the US Women’s Open.

Defending champion Yuka Saso finished six strokes off the cutoff after a second round 74 ended her reign.

Dottie Ardina fired a strong 70 anchored on three birdies, but it wasn’t enough to make up for her disaster of an opening round, leaving Pagdanganan, who also shot a one-under 70 in the second round, as the lone Filipino at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in North Carolina.

Pagdanganan, a Tokyo Olympian like Saso, had a double bogey on 14 and a bogey on 17 that threatened to cut her week short, too. Even with her four-birdie card, Pagdanganan was two strokes off the projected cut line of +1 before toughened conditions in the afternoon moved the cut mark at +3.

Saso, who played for the Philippines in Tokyo before opting for Japanese citizenship early this year, finished with a 9-over total after two rounds. Like in her first round 77, Saso also had bogeys on holes four, five, seven, eight and nine.

Shared lead

Wielding a balky driver, Saso hit only 14 of 28 fairways through 36 holes.

Australia’s Minjee Lee moved up the leaderboard with a five-under-par 66 on Friday to tie Mina Harigae for the 36-hole lead.

Lee, the fourth-ranked player in the world, made six birdies and one bogey to catch up to Harigae, who held the lead after one round and posted a 69 on Friday. Both are at nine-under 133 after two rounds.

South Korea’s Choi Hye-jin shot a 64 for the low round of the day and joined Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist (68 on Friday) two back of the leaders.

World No. 1 Ko Jin-young of South Korea (67) and Swedish amateur Ingrid Lindblad (71) are tied for fifth at 6 under.

Lee rolled in four of her birdies on the front nine before cooling off. Last July she broke through for her first major title at the Evian Championship in France, and she got back to the winner’s circle last month at the Cognizant Founders Cup.

“The golf course can really catch up to you quickly, so just trying to take whatever I have in front of me,” Lee said. “Whenever I have a birdie opportunity, I try to take advantage of that.” —REPORTS FROM INQUIRER GOLF AND REUTERS

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