• Thai sets pace with 66, leads by 1

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    Wannasiri Sirisampant of Thailand blasts her drive on No. 11. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Wannasiri Sirisampant of Thailand blasts her drive on No. 11. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Mookharin Ladgratok of Thailand charged home with three birdies in the last five holes to shoot a five-under 66 and grab a one-stroke lead over three others in a crowded leaderboard at the start of the Manila Southwoods Ladies Classic at Southwoods’ Legends course in Carmona, Cavite on Tuesday.

    The 21-year-old Ladgratok used a near-impeccable iron game and putting to string two 33s fashioned out in ideal conditions at the bunker-laden layout reduced to a par-71, 6048-yard after the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. turned the par-5 No. 8 into a par-4 hole to add more challenge.

    Ladgratok, a two-time junior champion back home, parred the hole sandwiched by two birdies then went on to birdie Nos. 14, 16 and 17 inside seven feet to sneak into the lead in the 54-hole tournament serving as the final leg of the eight-stage circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

    But three players stood just behind with 67s, including young Korean amateur Hwang Min Jeong, another Thai Wannasiri Sirisampant and local ace Chihiro Ikeda while local amateur and club bet Yuka Saso and Piyathida Ployumsri turned in identical 69s to put themselves in early contention in the 54-hole tournament backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp.

    Like Ladgratok, Hwang rallied at the back with four birdies to fuel her bid for a second straight championship after humbling absentees Cyna Rodriguez and amateur Princess Superal in a backside thriller at LPGT Mt. Malarayat last month.

    Sirisampant, in contrast, took charge early with an opening 31 highlighted by a pitch-in eagle on No. 8 and birdies on Nos. 3 and 5, went five-under with birdies on Nos. 11 and 13 against a bogey on No. 10 but missed joining her compatriot at the helm with a missed-green bogey on the No. 18.

    Ikeda also put in motion her bid for the elusive crown with a solid 32, tied the two Thais at five-under with back-to-back birdies from No. 14 but stumbled with a bogey on the par-5 17th to drop a joint second.

    “I like where I stood but I need to stay focused against the Thais and Hwang,” said Ikeda, the former SEA Games gold medalist still chasing her breakthrough win on the three-year-old ICTSI Philippine Ladies Golf Tour.

    Ployumsri birdied two of the last five to fire a 69 while Saso made an impressive start of back-to-back birdies but went on a rollercoaster round the rest of the way, mixing three bogeys with the same number of birdies for joint fifth.

    Saraporn Chamchoi, who had a couple of third-place finishes in this year’s circuit, carded a 70 for solo seventh while Lovelynn Guioguio, Korean Kim So Un and Thai Jaruport Palakawongnaayuttawa matched par 71s for a share of eighth.

    Sarah Ababa, runaway winner at LPGT Sherwood, hobbled with her long and iron game in the early going, making four bogeys in the first seven holes before settling down and hitting three birdies the rest of the way for a 72.

    Other one-over par scorers were Apple Fudolin, Thais Sarauttaya Ngam-usawan and Chayuda Singhsuwan, and amateurs Sam Martirez, Kayla Nocum and Koh Eu Na of Korea.

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