Korean Hwang Min-Jeong charged back from four shots down with three birdies in the last five holes to card a 69 and catch Thai Nemittra Juntanaket at the helm, setting up a final round shootout for The Women’s Championship at Summit Point crown in Lipa City, Batangas.
Hwang bucked windy play and tough pin placements and birdied Nos. 14, 15 and 17 for the second straight day to save a 35-34 while pouncing on Juntanaket’s flubbed par-putt from three feet on No. 15 to force a tie at seven-under 137 after the Thai ace slowed down with a 71 after a fiery opening 66.
Tiranan Yoopan, also from Thailand, shot a 70 and snared a spot in the championship flight with a 139 while Chihiro Ikeda and defending champion Yupapron Kawinpakorn matched 70s again for 140s, just three strokes off the joint leaders heading to what looms to be a duel of power and strategy in the final round of the P750,000 championship put up by ICTSI.
Supakchaya Pattanakrueang, who shared the first round lead with Juntanaket, stayed in the hunt with a 35 start but fell with a thud with a bogey on No. 10 and a quadruple bogey on the par-4 11th on a couple of errant shots. The Luisita leg winner last year ended up with a 76 and dropped to joint sixth at 142 with fellow Thai Ajira Nualraksa, who matched par 72, now five shots behind.
Samantha Dizon, meanwhile, birdied the last hole to salvage a 72 for solo eighth at 146 as she zeroed in on the low amateur honors after erstwhile frontrunner Eagle Ace Superal skied to an 80 for a 152.
After 10 players broke par in the first day, the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed layout, which features 18 of the world’s renowned golf holes, yielded just five under-par cards in tough conditions yesterday, including Hwang, whose late charge put the 2018 Philippine Amateur Open champion on track for a second crown after beating Princess Superal at Splendido to mark her pro debut last January.
“My second shots were not so good but had so many birdie opportunities,” said Hwang, who hit 10 fairways and missed four greens while defying her father-caddie Hwang Byung Sug, who had wanted her to attack and go for the pins.
“I got a little confused because my father wanted me to play aggressive but I opted to play it smart,” said Hwang, 17, who had two birdies against the same number of bogeys after 12 holes. “So he gave me the chance to play my game at the back.”
But she vowed to heed her father’s advice in the final 18 holes and guaranteed no less than a victory in the penultimate leg of the 12-stage seventh season of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“I think my father was right after all. So, I’ll play it aggressively and try to get more birdies, or even an eagle, tomorrow (today). This time, I expect to get the trophy,” said Hwang.
While Hwang flourished late with her putting, Juntanaket rued her day-long struggle with balky putter.
“I got a little mad because I had lots of birdie chances, some inside 10 feet. My long game and ball striking are quite okay but I just couldn’t putt right,” rued Juntanaket, who nevertheless remained on course for the first back-to-back title romp on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour this year after a runaway six-stroke triumph at Mount Malarayat last week.