Malixi fuels Asiad medal drive with solid 68

Jan Veran -
September 28, 2023 | 5:43pm
Malixi fuels Asiad medal drive with solid 68
Rianne Malixi
Photo release

HANGZHOU, China – With everything to gain in her Asian Games debut, Rianne Malixi let loose and went on an attack mode all day, producing a solid round that put her right in the medal mix at the start of the women’s golf competitions here Thursday.

Ranged against the world No. 2 and a former LPGA campaigner, Malixi didn’t cringe and came through with a pair of birdies on each nine of the West Lake International Golf Country Club in Xihu District, preserving a bogey-free 68 with a couple of gutsy par saves and gaining a share of seventh in a field of 39 in the individual competition of the 72-hole tournament.

While Chinese Ruoning Yin outshot her by one to join four others at second with 67s behind Japanese top amateur Saki Baba, who flourished with a 65, the 16-year-old Malixi’s gritty performance spoke well of the caliber of the player making her debut in the continent’s premier sporting competitions.

“I played well today. It’s a great start,” said Malixi. “I made a lot of great shots and good putts and really just opened doors for birdies. Even if I did a couple of mistakes, I was able to recover it for par.”

After two pars, she hacked a superb tee-shot and birdied the par-3 No. 3, gained a stroke on the par-4 fifth and dominated the par-5 10th to go three-under. She missed a couple of chances in the next five holes but flashed another solid iron play to birdie the last short hole on the 16th.

“Just knowing that I’m here to play against the best players, I have nothing to lose, which gives me more freedom to be aggressive in my game,” added the ICTSI-backed Malixi. “This is my mindset because I’m still young as this is my Asian Games debut and I’m just really trying to soak all the experience.”

Teammate Lois Kaye Go, however, failed to sustain a frontside 35 with bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15. Though the Cebuana recovered with back-to-back birdies from No. 16, she holed with another miscue to finish with a 72 for joint 21st.

But the fancied names lived up to the hype as Baba, the highest ranked amateur at world No. 3 in a field spiced up by the pros, led by Yin, crushed the par-72 course with a combination of power, iron play and putting.

Starting out at the backside, Baba birdied three of the first four holes then rebounded from a miscue on No. 15 with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 for a 32.

She kept pounding the layout with her stellar play, leading to another back-to-back birdie feats from No. 2 then closed out with two more birdies against a bogey in the last five holes for a seven-under 65.

Baba took a two-stroke lead over Yin, who flaunted her world-class skills with a brilliant 31 against Malixi and multi-titled Thai Patcharajutar Kongkraphan. But the recent winner of the Women’s PGA Championship, who had held the world's top ranking for two consecutive weeks before dropping to No. 2 this week, slowed down in the last nine holes which she played in even par for a 67.

Joining the Chinese, 22, at second are compatriots Xiyu Lin and Yu Liu, Thai Arpichaya Yubol and India’s Aditi Ashok, while Korean Hyunjo Yoo and Chinese-Taipei’s Ting-Hsuan Huang matched Malixi’s four-under card to likewise put themselves in early medal contention.

Kongkraphan, who had posted 23 pro wins, also hit two birdies on both nines but made a bogey on No. 13 and slipped to joint 10th at 69 with five others.

Malixi’s four-under effort likewise stood as the team output in the day as the Nashville Filipino Restaurant took seventh place with 140, counting Go’s 72, six strokes behind China and Japan, which produced identical 134s in the event won by the Filipinas in Jakarta in 2018 behind Yuka Saso, who also won the individual gold, Bianca Pagdanganan and Go.

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