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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Malixi restores order in Riviera, seizes control despite 73

Silang, Cavite—Rianne Malixi made up for her wobbly finish at nightfall Tuesday with a birdie and a run of pars in the last four holes, breaking away from a crowded leaderboard with a second 73 and moving in the threshold of another title romp on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour here yesterday.

Rianne Malixi’s gutsy finish moved her 18 holes away from nailing another championship. Manny Marcelo

Malixi overcame a birdie-less 38 start at the par 35-36 Langer layout with two birdies against a bogey in the last nine holes as she put herself in a very familiar place at the end of another grueling day with a three-stroke cushion over first round leader Mafy Singson and Harmie Constantino with a 146 aggregate after two rounds of the ICTSI Riviera Championship.

Singson, who pounced on Malixi’s closing bogeys in the first round to snatch the lead with a 72, fell with a thud with a horrible five-bogey skid from No. 2 but held on with a backside 37 but trailed her ICTSI teammate by three with a 149, sealing a showdown of amateurs for the crown in this ninth leg of the 11-stage LPGT.

But Constantino also hung tough with six straight pars at dusk to salvage a 73 and tie Singson for a shot at a third championship after winning two tournaments, both at Eagle Ridge-Aoki, in a remarkable rookie campaign in bubble setup last year.

Sarah Ababa and Chihiro Ikeda actually made it a four-way fight majority of the way, hinting at a wild second round finish. But while the amateurs kept their poise in the most challenging conditions, the pros wavered with the former dropping from second to fourth with bogeys on the last two holes for a second straight 75 and 150 and the latter ending up with a woeful 80 on an error-filled backside 43 for a 154 at eighth.

Laurea Duque, another amateur, shot a 75 for a 151 while Sunshine Baraquiel fumbled with a 78 after a 75 to drop to joint sixth with Korean amateur Kim Seoyun, who struggled with a 77, at 153.

Malixi’s gutsy finish thus put the runaway winner at Valley Golf Club last month 18 holes away from nailing another championship, her three-shot lead could prove too big a block for Singson and Constantino to hurdle given the Langer’s conditions and the leader’s firm control of her game and mental attitude.

The two-time AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) champion also won this year’s LPGT kickoff leg at Luisita, upstaging no less than multi-titled Princess Superal and her 13-stroke romp at Valley installed her as the player to beat this week.

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