‘Other’ Thai takes charge despite shaky windup

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TAGAYTAY: Titiya Plucksataporn stumbled at the finish for a 71 but held on to grab a two-stroke lead over local aces Mia Piccio and Cyna Rodriguez as erstwhile leader Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul wobbled with a 77 in the second round of the $75,000 ICTSI Champion Tour at Splendido here yesterday.

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While majority of the field succumbed to strong wind for the second straight day, Plucksataporn came out with solid three-under card after 15 holes to storm past the overnight leader by three. But the Ladies European Tour campaigner wavered on another windy finish, bogeying two of the last three and settling for the day’s lone under-par card.

Thai Titiya Plucksataporn studies the line of her putt on No. 10. Titiya Plucksataporn unleashes a solid drive on the first hole. Cyna Rodriguez hits her drive on No. 10. Mia Piccio saves a par off the bunker on No. 2. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

She did wrest the lead at 143 but her fumbling windup, and that of her compatriot, enabled five others to get back into the thick of things and earn a crack at the top $15,000 purse with 18 holes left in the kickoff leg of this year’s ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour presented by Champion.

“My putting and irons were simply good. If I can sustain my game or play even tomorrow (today), I have good chances for the title,” said the 24-year-old Bangkok native, a Queen Sirikit Cup silver medalist.

Muangkhumsakul, whose late surge Wednesday netted her a 69 and a one-shot lead over Piccio, failed to check a rollercoaster round on poor putting and a shaky finish of three bogeys in the last five holes, tumbling down to joint fourth with Taiwanese Lee Hsin (72), Yeh Hsin-ning (75) and amateur Hung Jo-jua (73), at 146.

“I couldn’t putt out there. It was a very disappointing round for me,” rued Muangkhumsakul.

That also kept Piccio and Rodriguez within striking distance at 145 despite the former’s 75 while the latter, who birdied No. 10, fought back from a bogey-bogey mishap from No. 14 with a birdie on the 17th to save par 72 and stay in the title hunt in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Local amateur Yuka Saso also struggled with a 75 and fell to joint eighth with Korean Kang Ji-won and Taiwanese amateur Hou Yu-chiang, who both matched par 72s, at 147 while Thais Punpaka Phuntumabamrung ang Pimpadsorn Sangkagaro pooled 148s after a 73 and 75, respectively.

Rookie pro Pauline del Rosario, in joint third at the start of the day, also skied to a 78 and slipped to a share of 13th with Taiwan’s Chen Yu-ju (75) and amateur Hou Yu-sang (73) and Thai Narisara Kerdrit (73) at 149, six strokes off the new leader.

Piccio fell behind by as many as four after a forgettable 40 start but she birdied the par-5 10th for the second straight time and parred the rest for a 75 and moved to joint second as Muangkhumsakul, who mixed four birdies with two bogeys and two double bogeys after 13 holes, faltered in the wind in the finishing holes.

Rodriguez moved to within two off the Thais with a birdie on No. 10 but the former three-time LPGT Order of Merit winner bogeyed Nos. 14 and 15 on missed green miscues and fell way behind again but birdied the 17th to salvage a 72 and remain on track in the event backed by ICTSI, BDO, Champion, Custom Clubmakers, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, KZG, Sharp, Summit Mineral Water, Titleist and Event Captain.

While the rest groped for form, Plucksataporn brandished a solid game in the first 15 holes, ramming in three birdies and threatening to pull away from the pack. But she failed to go up-and-down on Nos. 16 and 18 although her 35-36 card stood as the best and the lone under-par card churned out in another challenging day.

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