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Ikeda, Superal catch Hwang on top with 69s

GEN. TRIAS, Cavite, Philippines — Chihiro Ikeda and Princess Superal carded identical 69s to tie Hwang Min-jeong at the helm in a tense, shaky finish that highlighted the second round yesterday and set up a shootout for the ICTSI Eagle Ridge Ladies Invitational crown at the Aoki course here.


Hwang, who seized the first round lead with a 68 Wednesday, held off the local aces’ early charge with three birdies in the first 13 holes but wavered at the finish, falling off the pace twice, re-taking the lead before gaining a piece of it on a bogey-par-birdie-double-bogey-birdie windup.


In a flight ahead, Ikeda, who eagled No. 5, took control despite flubbing a two-foot downhiller for par on the par-3 17th, which Hwang double-bogeyed, for another 69. But that missed putt later cost the Fil-Japanese the solo lead as the Korean amateur came through with that closing birdie to save a 70 and tie Ikeda at six-under 138.


Superal, who matched Ikeda’s opening 69, battled Hwang from start to finish in the featured flight, hitting four birdies after eight holes to earn a share of the lead. But the Symetra Tour campaigner failed to gain headway with two birdies against three bogeys the rest of the way but cashed in on Hwang and Ikeda’s late bogeys to match their 36-hole total with another three-under card.


That set up a fitting ending to what had been a thrilling battle in the third leg of this year’s Ladies Philippine Golf Tour sponsored by ICTSI with Ikeda, looking for a follow-up to her Forest Hills romp last November, and Superal, seeking to snap a long spell in the circuit she used to dominate, bracing for a shootout with the Korean amateur, who humbled them in the Mt. Malarayat stop of the LPGT in 2015.


“I had a great game but I missed so many short putts,” said Hwang. “But I will just enjoy my game tomorrow (today), try to concentrate more and play pressure-free.”


The rest are too far behind to contend for the top P150,000 purse in the 54-hole tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with Lee Ji Hyeon, another Korean amateur, losing steam in the last flight and fumbling with a 74 to slip to joint fourth at 143, five shots behind, with Thai Pavarista Yoktuan, who turned in a 73.


Dottie Ardina, four off the pace with a 72 start, pressed her bid with a three-under card after 11 holes. But she lost her rhythm and touch and bogeyed four of the next five holes, needing to birdie the 18th to save a second 72 and a 144, now six adrift, in a tie with Kanyalak Preedasuttijit of Thailand, who rallied with the tournament-best 67.


Kim Hee Ji, the other Korean amateur, shot a second 73 for a 146 while Thais Numa Gulyanamitta and Thanuttra Boonraksasat pooled identical 147s after a 73 and 76, respectively, in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZGm PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.


Hwang looked headed to thwarting Ikeda and Superal’s bids with a solid start but missed the green and bogeyed No. 14 to drop to a share of the lead with Ikeda. She recovered and regained the solo lead with a birdie, slipped off the pace with a wet double-bogey on the 17th but rebounded with that closing birdie.


Ikeda recovered from a bogey on No. 2 with an eagle on the par-5 No. 5 then birdied Nos. 8, 13 and 16 to tie Hwang then grabbed the lead despite a bogey on No. 17.


Superal also sizzled with an early run of four birdies but reeled back with a bogey on the ninth, bounced back with a birdie on No. 11, only to fall back again with bogeyes on Nos. 13 and 15. She birdied the par-5 16th for the second straight day to force a three-way tie.


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