Cyna Rodriguez recovered with an early run of birdies then held sway at the back to shoot a two-under 70 and wrest a four-stroke lead over Thai Supakchaya Pattaranakrueang and Marvi Monsalve at the start of the ICTSI Luisita Ladies Championship at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac on Wednesday.
Rodriguez, due for a big win after a series of so-so finishes in the circuit she used to dominate, bogeyed the opening hole but struck back with three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 4 then came through with a bogey-birdie windup to complete a 34-36 card that stood out in a sweltering day at the tight, hazard-laden layout.
Pattaranakrueang actually seized control early with birdies on Nos. 2 and 6 but the Thai ace floundered at the tougher backside with four bogeys and slipped to joint second with Monsalve, who hit two birdies against four bogeys, at 74 as Princess Superal struggled with her iron play and hobbled with a 76 for fourth, six strokes behind her fellow Symetra Tour campaigner.
“I’ve been practicing hard, especially on putting, with the guidance of coach Bong (Lopez). He helped build up my confidence the last few weeks so I played relaxed all throughout,” said Rodriguez, a former three-time Order of Merit winner on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour who last won on the Ladies Philippine Golf at Riviera in 2015.
With a huge four-shot lead, Rodriguez hinted at playing it conservatively in the last 36 holes but she stressed the need to come up with solid drives that are key to winning at courses as tough as Luisita.
“One has to hit a good drive here to get good position to set up birdie opportunities,” said Rodriguez, who hit just six fairways and missed seven greens but more than made up for these with superb putting (27 putts).
Runaway winner at Tagaytay Highlands and Riviera, Superal kept Rodriguez within striking distance with a one-over card after 11 holes. But she bogeyed the par-5 12th, recovered the stroke with a birdie on the next but dropped another stroke on the 15th and double-bogeyed the water-laced par-3 17th.
“I struggled with my irons, hit them most to the right,” rued Superal, who, however, vowed to strike back for a crack at a third straight crown in the circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
Monsalve also grappled with her irons but came through with clutch par putts to put her in early contention in the P1.5 million event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, inc.
“I have to stay focused in the next two days and try to learn from my mistakes,” said Monsalve.
Thai Thanuttra Boonraksasat failed to check a five-bogey slide in the first 12 holes and wound up with a 77 in a tie with amateurs Mikha Fortuna and Mafy Singson of The Country Club stable, while Thais Numa Gulyanamitta and Sarinee Thitiratanakorn turned in identical 78s and Sarah Ababa and Ananya Vitayakonkomol shared 10th place with 79s.
Riviera leg winner Chihiro Ikeda played with a bum stomach and skied to an 82 in the 54-hole tournament backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZGm PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.