Thai takes charge as Del Rosario wavers

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Thai Saruttaya Ngam-usawan rode on an early backside charge and shot an eagle-spiked two-under 69 as she grabbed a one-stroke lead over Pauline del Rosario at the start of the ICTSI Riviera Ladies Championship at Riviera’s Langer course on Tuesday in Silang, Cavite.

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Ngam-usawan, back on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour after ruling the Royal Northwoods leg late last year, bucked a one-over frontside card with an eagle-birdie start at the back of the par-71 layout then pounced on Del Rosario’s late-hole miscues to storm into the lead with a 36-33 effort.

Pau del Rosario reacts after missing a birdie putt on No. 9. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The top Filipina bet, chasing a third straight championship after topping the Orchard and Baguio stops of the circuit sponsored by ICTSI, actually took control of the compact field with a three-birdie binge from No. 10. But she fumbled with back-to-back bogeys from No. 16 and slipped to second with a 70.

Amateur Abby Arevalo birdied the tricky par-3 17th and saved a 73 to take third but stood four strokes off Ngam-usawan while six others lay another shot farther back at 74.

They include Tiranan Yoopan, also of Thailand, who fell from solo third with bogeys in the last two holes, and compatriots Numa Gulyanamitta, who also bogeyed No. 17, Supa­kchaya Pattaran­krueang, who holed out with a bogey, and Sarinee Thitiratana­korn, who birdied the 18th.

Sarah Ababa, seeking a follow-up to her maiden win at Sherwood two years ago, eagled No. 10 but fumbled with a triple-bogey and made five bogeys against three birdies, the last on No. 18 that earned her a spot at joint fourth.

Amateur Bianca Pagdanganan also settled for a 74 after the reigning Philippine Ladies Open champion failed to survive a roller-coaster round of three birdies against four bogeys after 15 holes at the hazard-laden layout. She also bogeyed two of the last three holes and missed seizing solo third.

Chihiro Ikeda, the former SEA Games gold medalist who snapped a long title drought with a victory over Orchard last year, hit just one birdie against four bogeys and a double-bogey as she fell way behind at 76 in a tie with Thai Chatprapa Siriprakob.

After a mediocre start on a hot but windy day, Ngam-usawan hacked a hybrid second shot from 170 yards on the par-5 10th to within nine feet which she knocked in for eagle then added a pair of birdies inside six feet on Nos. 11 and 14 to wrest control.

She, however, missed going 2-up with a missed green mishap on the 18th and braced for a fierce duel with Del Rosario and Arevalo in today’s second round of the 54-hole tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Custom Club­makers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.

For a while, Del Rosario appeared headed for an explosive windup by stringing three straight birdies from No. 10. But after three pars, including a pair of flubbed birdie putts, she dropped a shot on the par-5 16th and muffed a par-putt bid from six feet on the next to drop off a share of the lead with Ngam-usawan.

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