Thai Jaruporn Palakawongnaayuttaya pounced on Cyna Rodriguez’s backside meltdown on the greens to storm ahead, seizing a one-stroke lead over Chihiro Ikeda with a gutsy 72 in the second round of the ICTSI Royal Northwoods Ladies Challenge at the Royal Northwoods Golf Club on Wednesday in San Rafael, Bulacan.
Palakawongnaayuttaya fumbled with two bogeys in another tough day at the challenging layout but gunned down two birdies, the last on No. 17 anchoring her 37-35 card for a second straight even par card that shoved her to the top of the heap at 144.
Ikeda also birdied the par-4 17th to cap a five-birdie feat that negated four bogeys as the Order of Merit frontrunner turned in a one-under 71 to take the challenger’s role at 145 and stay in the hunt for a second leg win in the circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
“I really need to shoot under tomorrow (today) to get a chance to win again,” said Ikeda, seeking a follow-up to her breakthrough in the rain-hit Orchard leg of the event last June.
Another Thai, Saruttaya Ngam-usawan, fired one of the tournament-best 69s to move up to solo third at 146, joining Palakawongnaayuttaya and Ikeda in the championship flight chasing the top P250,000 purse in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Rodriguez, fancied to rule this P1 million championship serving as the penultimate leg of this year’s ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour owing to her talent and experience, turned in a decent 36 start but struggled with her putting at the back, ending up with two three-putt miscues and a 41 for a 77. She fell to joint fourth at 147 after showing up the field with a 70 Tuesday.
“I lost my momentum after making two three-putts,” rued Rodriguez, the reigning OOM winner who had a so-so debut on the LPGA Tour this year.
Despite falling by three, the many-time LPGT leg champion remained confident of her chances but said: “I need to shoot less than 70 to contend again.”
Ranged against two title-hungry Thais, Ikeda said she won’t pressure herself to score low but will just play her game.
“I’ll treat it as a practice round and hope to give myself birdie chances,” said Ikeda, a former SEA Games gold medalist.
Jayvie Agojo, who shot a 74 in the first round, crowded Rodriguez and the other contenders with birdies in the first two holes but the former Philippine Ladies Open winner stumbled after a run of five pars, bogeying Nos. 8 and 9. She failed to check her skid at the back and closed out with a 39 for a 79 and 149 for sixth.
Indonesian Jessica Lydia turned from awful to awesome as she rebounded from an 81 with a 69 but still stood six strokes behind the Thai leader at 150.
Korean amateur Hwang Min-jeong floundered with a 76 for a 151 while Lucy Landicho made a 75 and Apple Fudolin and Lovelyn Guioguio both limped with 79s for joint ninth at 153 heading to the final round of the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Sharp, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Champion, TaylorMade, Ping, Yamaha and Pacsports.