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LPGT: Pauline Del Rosario, Harmie Constantino surge to lead share with Florence Bisera at PH Masters

Pauline del Rosario emerged slightly steadier than Harmie Constantino and Florence Bisera in a turbulent finish, salvaging a gritty 73 to forge a three-way tie for the lead heading into the final 18 holes of the ICTSI Ladies Villamor Philippine Masters on Thursday.

That sets the stage for a day-long battle of wits and nerves among three of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour’s top players.

Del Rosario, trailing for much of the round, managed to limit her mistakes to just one bogey in the last four holes, finishing with a 37-36 round and putting herself in contention for another Tour crown.

Constantino, who erased a three-stroke deficit overnight with a frontside 35, faltered down the stretch with bogeys on No. 15 and a double bogey on the next hole to card a 74.

Despite this, she remains on track for a third consecutive victory on a course she knows well, having triumphed in the Match Play Championship and in this event in the past two years.

Bisera reeled back with a 39 after nine holes but regained the lead momentarily despite a bogey on the 15th.

However, she slipped into a tie for the lead with a last-hole mishap, finishing with a 77.

“I haven’t hit many fairways since the first round. My game hasn’t been at its best this week, which is why I struggled a lot,” Constantino admitted after opening her title-retention bid with a 73 on Wednesday.

“I didn’t really hit many fairways early on in the round,” she rued.

Constantino worked her way to the top with an impressive one-under card on the front nine. Despite a bogey on No. 10 and a birdie on the 12th, she struggled to maintain her lead, faltering towards the end.

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“Other than my driving struggles, everything was fine. My irons were great. I think I just need to hit better shots tomorrow and pick my lines,” said Constantino, the back-to-back winner at Palos Verdes and Caliraya Springs. However, she quickly downplayed her chances for a third straight win, adding: “I have no expectations for tomorrow, I’ll just enjoy playing.”

Despite wresting the first-round lead and barely retaining it, Bisera acknowledged her struggle with the challenging Villamor course.

“Mahirap talaga ang course na ‘to. Di ako nakaka-score ng maayos ever since I played this course,” she said. Her difficulty became evident after a start of four pars as she ran into trouble on No. 5. “Nadikit sa puno, sa may ugat ang drive ko, walang palo. Kaya bumalik lang ang bola, leading to a double bogey.”

This misstep highlighted the unpredictable nature of the course and Bisera’s determination to overcome it.

“Pero maganda ang putting ko, madaming missed greens, pero madami din ang one-putt,” said Bisera, who is chasing a follow-up to her maiden win at South Pacific last year.

Del Rosario’s card reflected a two-birdie, three-bogey round. Her ability to par the last three holes in challenging conditions and pressure underscored the caliber of the player who dominated her rookie season with multiple victories, leading to an Order of Merit title.

A thrilling finish could be in the works as Seoyun Kim stayed just a stroke behind at 148 despite a 77, while Mikha Fortuna pooled a 149 after a 75, ensuring a spirited battle for top honors in the 54-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and supported by Kampfortis Golf.

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Apo leg winner Sarah Ababa shot a 76 for a 151, Chihiro Ikeda and Gretchen Villacencio matched 152s after a 77 and 78, respectively, while Apple Fudolin and Lois Kaye Go took the next two spots at 155 and 157 after 79 and 75, respectively.

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