Saranporn Langkulgasettrin flashed near-impeccable putting touch to card a 69 while Korean Lee Jeong-Hwa charged back with a 68 to force a tie but local ace Chihiro Ikeda rallied with late birdies to threaten with a second 70 in the second round of the $80,000 ICTSI Philippine Ladies Masters at the Alabang Country Club on Thursday.
Overnight leader Kanphanitnan Muangkhumaskul slowed down with a 73 after a 69 and dropped to fourth but Langkulgasettrin made sure to keep Thailand in the lead hunt for the top $17,000 purse with superb putting that netted her a 35-34 card, spiked by a couple of saved pars in the early going and three birdies in the last seven holes.
“It was a great round, my putting was incredible,” said Langkulgasettrin, who used her putter just 26 times on the unpredictable Alabang surface to pool a 139. “It was hot all day but I had a good feeling before the round started.”
But Lee pressed her bid for a sweep of the three Ladies Philippine Golf Tour/Taiwan LPGA Tour legs as the Korean ace hit back-to-back birdies from No. 15 to turn in the day’s best score in scorching heat and tie Langkulgasettrin at five-under overall.
Lee, who dominated the Splendido and Southwoods legs last March, also credited her solid putting as she birdied two of the first eight holes, bogeyed No. 9 but birdied No. 11 before closing out with late birdies to stay in contention for another crack at the championship sponsored by ICTSI and co-organized by LPGT and TLPGA.
“Putting is great today,” said Lee, who vowed to close out with a five-under card to nail another win. “My goal is to win the tournament and I want to shoot a five-under tomorrow (today).”
But focus will also be on Ikeda, the former SEA Games individual gold medalist who took the cudgels for the local aces, including the Symetra Tour veterans, who continued to struggle in tough condition at the tight layout.
Ikeda, who opened with a 70 Wednesday, actually stepped up her bid early with a two-under card after three holes but the LPGT Orchard leg winner went on a rollercoaster spin the next nine holes, fumbling with three bogeys against one birdie before recovering with birdies on Nos. 13 and 16 to churn out a second straight 70 and a 140, just one stroke behind the joint leaders.
“I’m happy with my irons and I played better than yesterday although I shot the same scores,” said Ikeda, who hopes to shoot in the low 60s to contend for the crown.
Muangkhumaskul slid to 142 while Kuo Ai-Chen emerged the top Taiwanese in the elite field at 143 despite a 73 while Princess
Superal, one of a slew of fancied local bets in the 54-hole season-ending championship, hardly recovered from a first round 73 with a 71, her even 144 putting the former US Girls’ Junior champion five strokes off the pace heading to the last 18 holes.
Taiwanese amateur Hou Yu-Sang matched Superal’s two-day output to share sixth spot.
Taiwan’s Ching Huang matched par 72 while Thai Chatprapa Siriprakob stumbled with a 74 for joint eighth at 145 while reigning World Girls Junior champion Yuka Saso fired a 69 after a 77 to move to joint 10th at 146 with Singaporean Sock Hwee Koh, who turned in a 70.
The other local aces failed to recover from mediocre starts and bowed out of contention with over-par rounds.
Dottie Ardina, who came into the event brimming with confidence after regaining her LPGA Tour Category 17 card, limped to 76 for a 149, Mia Piccio groped for a 78 after a 72 and tumbled to 150 and Cyna Rodriguez struggled with a 77 after a 75 for a 152 in a tie with amateurs Harmie Constantino and Pauline del Rosario, who made 75 and 79, respectively.
Langkulgasettrin actually hooked her first drive into the trees but came through with a superb recovery shot that landed four off the cup for birdie. She ran off pars in the next nine holes, hit a poor tee-shot on the par-3 11th and made a bogey but birdied three of the last seven, including a tap-in on the par-5 18th.
“I’m going to play the same game plan – focus on my game,” said Langkulgasettrin, who also banked on her dad Surat’s superb stint on her bag on a hot, punishing day.