(Photo: Rianne Malixi ends up with a another two-trophy haul at Riviera)
SILANG, Cavite – Rianne Malixi pulled off another victory so unlike in her Valley leg romp that had kept her in the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour conversation, blowing a three-stroke lead in the heat and wind but rebounding with a solid backside charge to foil Kim Seoyun with yet another 73 and remain the talking point of the ICTSI Riviera Championship here Thursday.
Malixi spiked her two-stroke victory with back-to-back birdies from No. 10 and a pair of clutch par-saving bids on Nos. 16 and 18, the last from long range on Langer’s tough finishing par-4 hole after stroking her first putt from the fringe two-and-a-half pin past the cup. But she returned it with great resolve, dashing whatever hopes the hot-finishing Kim had had for a playoff after the Korean rolled in her own par-bid from 16 feet to cap a tournament-best 68 in a flight ahead.
“It was super hectic in the first nine. It was really off – my drives, irons, short game and putting. But then I told myself to like calm down and drink a lot of water. Then I hit back-to-back birdies from No. 10 and didn’t concede consecutive putts and saved up-and-downs,” said Malixi, whose closing 39-34 matched her first two cards at the dreaded, undulating par-71 course, which yielded just a single under-par card through all three days of unforgiving test of shotmaking, mental toughness and endurance.
“I was just glad that I was able to hold my head high and I was really patient today (yesterday) and I think that’s the key,” added Malixi.
She totaled 219 and tied absentee Chanelle Avaricio’s three-title run (Hallow Ridge, Caliraya Springs and Pradera Verde) in the season she sparked with a surprise win over fancied Princess Superal in the kickoff leg at Luisita last March.
Kim fought back from seven shots down after 36 holes and a two-over 37 frontside card with an eagle on the par-5 No. 10 and three birdies in the next five holes to threaten with two strokes off Malixi, who also closed out the 2021 season with a victory at Midlands. But the Korean ran out of holes in her bid to mark her LPGT debut with a victory although she gained one last crack at a playoff after Malixi’s first putt on the closing hole went past the hole.
With her 68, Kim snatched runner-up honors with a 221, completing a 1-2 finish by the amateurs in the 54-hole, P750,000 championship put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Harmie Constantino let out a big yell after flubbing a curling, uphill par-bid from 10 feet on No. 18, ending up with a bogey for a 75 and missing to pocket the top P116,250 purse. She dropped to joint third instead at 224 with Sarah Ababa and amateur Mafy Singson, who closed out with 74 and 75, respectively.
A two-time LPGT winner, Constantino thus settled for a split of the combined first and second prizes with Ababa worth P198,750.
Though she conceded the top purse to Constantino and Ababa the way she did to Chihiro Ikeda in her 13-shot romp in Valley Ladies Challenge last month, the 15-year-old Malixi gained so much in terms of confidence with another sweep of the amateur and pro titles while building the needed momentum for her three-tournament sortie in Thailand beginning with the Thailand Amateur Open on Oct. 18-21.
The spearhead of Team ICTSI is also set to vie in Thailand Junior World Championship on Oct. 27-30 and the Women’s Asia Pacific Amateur Championship on Nov. 3-6.
Malixi, who squandered the first round lead with a bogey-bogey finish for a 73 Tuesday, took command by three with another two-over card at sundown in the second day but wobbled with a two-bogey miscue and one double bogey mishap after six holes of the final round.
That enabled Ababa to rally from four strokes down in a flight with Kim and amateur Laurea Duque with a brave two-birdie, two-bogey frontside 35 to catch Malixi at the helm. But the Davaoena failed to match Malixi’s backside blitz, falling by three with a bogey on the par-3 No. 12 and never recovered.
But the two-time AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) winner found a late threat in Kim, who bounced back from a three-bogey, one-birdie frontside with an eagle on the par-5 10th and birdies on Nos. 12, 14 and 15 to make it a pressure-packed finish.
Malixi, however, showed grace under pressure, coming through with a slew of pars, including that clutch final putt to squeak out the win that also proved special for Malixi, who became the youngest winner at 12 of the Philippine National Stroke Play Championship, formerly the Philippine Amateur Open, here in 2020.
Meanwhile, Order of Merit frontrunner and two-leg winner Chihiro Ikeda recovered from a second round 80 with a 73 to grab solo sixth at 227 while Gretchen Villacencio and Apple Fudolin tied for seventh at 228 after matching 72s, 2021 Highlands leg champion Sunshine Baraquiel carded a 76 for ninth at 229 and Marvi Monsalve shot a 73 to salvage joint 10th at 230 with amateur Laurea Duque, who skied to a 79.