Chihiro Ikeda took charge with superb iron game but fumbled with a last-hole mishap to settle for a one-under 71 and a one-stroke lead over fancied Cyna Rodriguez at the start of the P500,000 ICTSI Mt. Malarayat Ladies Classic at Mt. Malarayat Golf and Country Club’s in Lipa, Batangas on Wednesday.
The long-hitting Ikeda, chasing a breakthrough on the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour, stormed to a three-shot lead over Rodriguez with three holes to go but the latter birdied the par-5 17th in a flight behind and the former bogeyed the final hole after failing to rescue a par from the greenside bunker.
Still, Ikeda liked where she stood after the tough, windy opener in the 54-hole championship sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc., adding she actually didn’t expect to be on top with Rodriguez, winner of the two of the circuit’s first three legs, and a slew of other solid players around.
“My set-up for birdies was very good. I made some big ones but also missed some like on No. 8 where I three-putted. But overall, it was a nice round for me,” said Ikeda, who lost by three to Jayvie Agojo in the second leg at ICTSI Riviera Ladies Classic.
Rodriguez, eyeing a third leg win after dominating the Orchard and John Hay stages of the eight-leg circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., struggled with her putting but still salvaged a three-birdie, three-bogey round for a 72. Despite her putting woes, the reigning Order of Merit champion put herself right behind Ikeda and within target of another crown in the circuit backed by Nike, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp.
“This is just the first round and there’s time to adjust to the slightly windy Mt. Lobo and Mt. Malipunyo courses,” said Rodriguez, who also stressed the need to polish her short game on the challenging composite layout.
Amolkan Phalajivin, who lost by 11 shots to Rodriguez at John Hay, double-bogeyed the last hole and missed joining Ikeda in the lead with a one-over 73, dropping into a tie with Agojo instead in what could’ve been an explosive start for the comely Thai shotmaker.
Ranged again Ikeda and Anya Tanpinco, Phalajivin tied Ikeda at one-under with back-to-back birdies from No. 11, dropped two shots behind with a bogey on No. 15 which Ikeda birdied but pulled to within one again with a birdie on the 17th.
“It was a good run despite the late double-bogey. I was quite confident on No. 11 onwards,” said Phalajivin, who blew a one-under card after five holes with bogeys on Nos. 7 and 9.
Like Rodriguez, Agojo groped for her putting form, muffing six birdie chances inside five feet but made one on No. 15 that kept her within striking distance of Ikeda at 73. She immediately headed to the practice green after turning in her scorecard that yielded two birdies against a bogey and a double-bogey on No. 9.
Korean Kwon Seo Yon closed out with a 35 for a 74 and stood just three strokes behind Ikeda for solo fifth while Sarah Ababa turned in a 75, Tanpinco carded a 76 in a tie with Korean amateur Choi Yeon Hwa, Lovelynn Guioguio made a 78 and Apple Fudolin shot a 79.