THE Philippines’ Bianca Pagdanganan used a strong back nine in the final round to finish in joint third in the NW Arkansas Championship won by South Korean rookie Ryu Hae-ran on Sunday.
The 25-year old Pagdanganan eagled 10 and 18 and had three birdies in shooting six-under 29 on the back nine for a 64 in the third round.
Tying with South Koreans Kim Sei-young and Jenny Shin, and Japanese rookie Yuna Nishimura, Pagdanganan shared third on 15-under 198 and earn $112,775 for her best-ever finish in the LPGA tour this year.
It was also Pagdanganan’s highest placing since the 2020 LPGA Drive On Championship in Georgia where she bagged third.
Ryu won her first LPGA title, making four birdies and an eagle on the back nine Sunday.
The 22-year-old from Seoul overcame struggles at the start to fire a five-under par 66.
That was good enough to finish the 54-hole event on 19-under 194 and defeat Sweden’s Linnea Strom by three strokes at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas.
“Before the season, I wanted to get rookie of the year but now I got a bonus, winner on the LPGA Tour” Ryu said. “Now it’s all meaningful.”
Australian Hannah Green finished three strokes behind Ryu with 16-under 197 after a final round 64.
Overnight leader Ryu opened with a birdie but made bogeys at the par-5 second and par-4 fifth holes and found herself in a trophy fight as she made the turn two off the pace.
“First nine holes I felt so bad,” Ryu said. “First three holes my iron shot is going too far. Always my ball is hit over the pin and I can’t try at birdie.
“But after the ninth hole I refocus for my iron distance. I tried more to bring my swing and made so many birdies and I got it.”
Ryu birdied the 10th and 12th, then dropped her 7-iron approach inches from the hole at the par-5 14th to set up a tap-in eagle. She followed with birdies at 16 and 18 to seal the triumph.
World number 37 Ryu became the fifth LPGA rookie champion this year, a tour record, and only the second LPGA wire-to-wire winner this season after Brooke Henderson at the Tournament of Champions.
Ryu, a five-time Korean LPGA tour winner and LPGA Q-school medalist, had five previous top-10 finishes this year, including eighth at the US Women’s Open at Pebble Beach.
Kim shot 66 but stumbled with a bogey at 16 while Shin made bogeys at 11 and 16 in firing a 67 for her best finish of the season.
Nishimura opened and closed the back nine with birdies in a bogey-free 68 for her best LPGA result in 23 starts, sharing third nudging ahead of her fourth-place showing in last year’s Japan Classic.
Dottie Ardina, Pagdanganan’s ICTSI stablemate, had a final round of 67 for a 12-under 201 to tie with seven others in 10th place.
Yuka Saso, meanwhile, ended up in joint 23rd with 10-under 203 after a 68 in the final round.