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LPGT: Ikeda seals duel vs Malixi; Harmie-Marvi clash in Villamor Match Play semis

Chihiro Ikeda and Rianne Malixi produced another pair of lopsided wins to arrange an explosive showdown while Harmie Constantino needed to fend off a late-charging Sunshine Baraquiel to forge a clash with Marvi Monsalve in the ICTSI Villamor Match Play at the Villamor Golf Club on Wednesday.

But the faceoff between the top seed and the fancied amateur ensues before the finals as Ikeda ripped Lovelynn Guioguio, 7&6, and Malixi posted a second straight 3&2 win, this time over Gretchen Villacencio in the Last 8 phase of the first head-to-head battle on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.

In the other half of the draw, Constantino fashioned out a 3&1 victory over Baraquiel after surviving a back-and-forth skirmish with amateur Mafy Singson, 1-up, in the first day of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. to advance to the semis, while Monsalve rallied late to repel Florence Bisera, 1-up, after booting out Lucy Landicho, 3&2, Tuesday.

Ikeda, who trounced Martina Miñoza, 4&2, in the first round of the 16-player draw Tuesday, wrested control after four holes, went 3-up after 8 then coasted to victory at the back where the Manila Southwoods and AsiaGlobal Technologies, Inc.-backed ace practically warmed up for her keenly awaited duel with the 15-year-old Malixi.

“Malixi is playing very good now, so I will just play my game,” said Ikeda, seeking to add the match play crown to her victories at Mount Malarayat and Eagle Ridge-Aoki that netted her the Order of Merit diadem.

Winner of all three legs she had competed in this year’s LPGT, Malixi took command after the sixth hole and preserved a three-hole cushion she had built after No. 12 all the way to the finish to match her romp against Pamela Mariano in the first round.

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“Last 4 holes my irons were a little bit off but I was able to pull up some putts, the most crucial was my 6-footer (on No. 16) for the win,” said Malixi, who is also coming off a remarkable campaign in Thailand where she won the Thai Junior World title, placed second in the Thai Amateur Open and tied for third in the Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific Championship.

Malixi maintains putting will be key not only against the seasoned Ikeda but also in her title drive where a win on Friday would cap a dominant campaign on the circuit she dominated with victories at Luisita, Valley and Riviera.

“Putting will be key and hopefully I’ll improve on my iron shots and focus on my distance,” said the ICTSI-backed two-time AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) winner.

While Constantino, who marked her rookie season with two victories, both at Eagle Ridge-Aoki, last year, looks to have an edge over Monsalve in the other semis matchup, the latter also can’t wait to prove her worth after moving two wins away from nailing a career breakthrough in the circuit put up by ICTSI.

“My plan is to accept the bad shots and try to hit birdies with my putting and not through approach shots since my long game and irons aren’t still 100 percent,” said Monsalve.

She was actually a hole down against Bisera after No. 14 but took the next two to wrest control then held on to the finish to hack out the come-from-behind win.

But Monsalve would need to start strong to get some momentum against the in-form Constantino, who closed out the LPGT season with a victory at Pradera Verde two weeks ago.

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Constantino battled Baraquiel to an all-square match after five holes but took two of the next three then led by as many as five before the latter rallied in hot conditions, only to run out of holes.

“First 2 holes, I got a little relaxed and didn’t focus much as I was to supposed to, especially in this kind of format. But I got back on track and started making birdies, getting more holes, and making fewer mistakes than Shine (Baraquiel),” said Constantino.

“My plan is to attack the pin tomorrow, or maybe just try to put my drive in the fairway and not try to hit the cutline or wherever the opening is,” she added.

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