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Malixi blows Midlands field with eagle-spiked 70, leads by 9


TAGAYTAY – Young Rianne Malixi continued to upstage the pros with her dynamic brand of play, keeping her flaws to a minimum then unleashing a scorching backside charge to fire an eagle-spiked 70 and pull away by nine strokes over Daniella Uy after 36 holes of the ICTSI Midlands Ladies Classic here, Wednesday.

A second straight bogey on the closing par-5 hole hardly ruined Malixi’s brilliant last-nine assault of Midlands that had her bucking a one-over frontside card with a birdie on the 12th. She then pulled off a stirring eagle-birdie feat from No. 16 to shoot a 37-33 for a two-day total of 143 and closer to turning her first Ladies Philippine Golf Tour sortie into a celebratory appearance.

Uy, winner of the last LPGT leg at Riviera’s Langer layout, also hit a birdie on the par-5 16th in an earlier flight to salvage a 75 but lay nine strokes behind with a 152 total while Sunshine Baraquiel, just three strokes behind Malixi after 18 holes, lost in the face of her 14-year-old rival’s sizzling finish and poor club selection, ending up with a 77 to drop to joint third at 153 with Harmie Constantino, who fought back from a 79 with a 74.

Marvi Monsalve shot a 75 for fifth 154 while amateur Laurea Duque groped for an 80 after a 76 to slip to sixth at 156 followed by Chanelle Avaricio (80-160), Lovelyn Guioguio (79-163), Apple Fudolin (79-164) and Sarah Ababa (83-169).

With a huge lead over Uy and the rest of the field, Malixi put herself on track of winning a local pro title in her first try and besting Avaricio’s seven-shot breakthrough title romp over Constantino and absentee Chihiro Ikeda in the ICTSI Riviera Challenge at the Couples course last month.

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Taiwanese Yu Chiang Hou edged Thai pro Wanchana Poruangrong in a playoff to become the last amateur to win an LPGT championship at Pradera Verde in 2019 while Princess Superal set the record when she humbled the local pros to dominate the ICTSI Camp John Hay LPGT in 2013.

Malixi insisted there was nothing special in her game, even saying: “I just treated it like a practice round. Actually, there was no pressure but it’s a great challenge.”

“I know I’ve been dubious about my iron shots but I was able to manage myself great,” added Malixi, who banked on her superb short iron shots to birdie all but one of the four par-3s.

But it was her eagle off a 50-degree wedge shot after coming up short from a 150-yard distance after a 250-yard drive that highlighted her two-day stint in the season-ending tournament of the eight-leg circuit put up by ICTSI in a season halted by two suspensions due to a spike in coronavirus cases in March and July.

“I will play relaxed but confident although anything can happen,” she added.

But Uy and the rest will need exceptional rounds to make things happen.

Uy, for one, needs to polish her putting stroke after making a four-putt miscue for a double bogey on the par-5 second and three-putt mishaps on Nos 8 and 14 that derailed her bid.

“I struggled because of the wind and the greens,” said Uy, hoping to ride the wind in the final round while vowing to make up with good approach shots to shun three-putt miscues.

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Ranged against Malixi, Baraquiel, who won in wicked conditions at the nearby Highlands last month, struggled with her club selections while tackling the wind that blew not as strong as in the first round, resulting in a number of flawed shots.

“I wasn’t able to adjust so I hit a lot of shots over and wasn’t able to get up-and-down on most holes,” rued Baraquiel, who bogeyed four of the first five holes and went to finish with three more mishaps against two birdies for a 39-38.

Constantino missed joining Uy at second with a bogey on the 16th but the two-leg winner, who skied to a 79 against Malixi’s 73 in the first round, remained hopeful of her chances to complete a three-title run by “playing steady and making fewer mistakes.”

“I played steadier today than yesterday,” said Constantino, who shot three birdies against five birdies in a 39-35 card. “I made few mistakes but I hit more greens and made more putts as well. I guess that’s the reason why I played well.”

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