Daniella Uy took a step closer to matching her runaway breakthrough win at Riviera two years ago as she closed out with a birdie-birdie feat for a 70 in steamy conditions and doubled her overnight three-stroke lead over Rianne Malixi after two rounds of the ICTSI Iloilo Golf Challenge presented by MORE Power in Iloilo on Thursday.
Malixi actually matched Uy’s closing birdie but the country’s leading amateur could only save a 73, enabling the former Junior World champion to pull away by six on a 137 total and move in the threshold of scoring a follow-up to her five-shot romp over Chihiro Ikeda in the 2021 Riviera Ladies Championship at the hazard-laden Langer course in Cavite.
Malixi’s last-hole birdie also somewhat cushioned the impact of her double-bogey mishap on the par-3 16th but she dropped farther behind at 143 while erstwhile joint second-running Harmie Constantino also reeled back with a double bogey on the par-5 14th for a 74 and a 144 heading to the final 18 holes of the P875,000 championship.
Florence Bisera carded a 72 for a 145, while amateur Laurea Duque fought back with a 73 to tie Sunshine Baraquiel, who made a 75, and Sarah Ababa, who shot a 76, at 148.
Chanelle Avaricio, who rallied from 8 strokes down to beat Ababa by one at Marapara last week, battled back with a 72 after a 77 but she stood way off at 149 with Chihiro Ikeda, who put in a 72, Pamela Mariano, who carded a 74, and amateur Mafy Singson, who made a 75.
Despite her huge lead, Uy has opted to tone down expectations, aware of the exacting playing conditions and Ababa’s final round meltdown in Bacolod.
“Same mindset, not to expect anything, don’t get too emotional and just try to be calm out there,” said Uy, who like the rest of the field, is putting premium on stamina and on how to cope with the debilitating summer heat.
“It’s going to be really hot again tomorrow, so I need to drink a lot of water,” she added.
Malixi, Constantino and the rest of Uy’s pursuers will also need to drain a lot of birdies to get a shot at the crown and the top P105,000 purse.
“I struggled with my fairway shots and GIRs (greens-in-regulation), I couldn’t make up-and-down and kind of scrambled for pars,” rued Malixi, who bogeyed three of the first six holes. “I also didn’t take advantage to make the best out of every birdie opportunity I had, so that was a struggle.”
But she added she was able to reach her goal at the finish, that is, to conserve energy for the last few holes.
“I know it’s going to be really hot tomorrow, so I’ll do the same thing. But then I’ll be reflecting on what I did today and kind of adjust for tomorrow,” said the 16-year-old rising star, who swept all her three Ladies PGT events last year but struggled to finish tied for third with Mariano last week.
Constantino said she also faltered in hot conditions and on the unreceptive greens but hinted at opting for conservative play in the final round to give herself a chance for another championship after closing out the 2022 season with a victory in the inaugural ICTSI Match Play Invitational.
“It was way hotter today, so it was way harder (to score),” she said. “Tomorrow, hopefully, the greens will be a lot softer but I’m assuming it will still be hard. I’ll just try to play it before the flag.”
Aside from her blazing finish, Uy needed to gun down an eagle on the par-5 No. 4 to negate a two-bogey miscue on Nos. 1 and 3 where she overshot both greens in a rather shaky start that sparked hopes for Malixi and Constantino to make it a three-way fight to the finish.
But the eagle feat put Uy in firm control as Malixi and Constantino later fumbled with bogeys to both make the turn at 38s against the first round leader’s 37. And though Uy dropped another shot on the 10th, she picked herself up and made a run of pars before birdying the last two holes to drive a wedge between her and Malixi and Constantino.