RIANNE MALIXI launches her drive in the inaugural Mizuho Americas Open against Gianna Clemente and Alice Zhao Thursday expecting a tough challenge not just from the top 2-ranked players in the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) but also from playing conditions at the Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey.
“It’s pretty windy, so I think placement and focusing more on ball-striking, distance control and trajectory will be key for this week,” said Malixi, one of the 24 invited players from the AJGA to the 12th leg of this year’s Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour.
Malixi has dropped from No. 2 to No. 7 in the latest AJGA rankings headed by Clemente and Zhao but the Filipino star is raring to showcase her mettle honed up by a strong third place finish in last week’s Women’s All Pro Tour event in Texas.
While these junior players will compete for their own individual title under the Stableford scoring system, they will have the rare chance to prove themselves against the likes of world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, No. 3 Lydia Ko and No. 4 Lilia Vu, among others, in the last two rounds of the $2.75 million event.
Malixi, a two-time AJGA leg winner, Clemente and Zhao anchor the eight-group AJGA contingent at 2:16 p.m. on No. 10.
Jin Young Ko kicks off her drive for a third LPGA win this year against Danielle Kang and Thai Patty Tavatanaki in one of the marquee matches at 8:32 a.m. on the first hole of the par-71 layout, while Lydia Ko drew Vu and Aussie Minjee Lee in the 1:32 p.m. group on No. 10.
Former amateur hotshot Rose Zhang is also out to impress in her pro debut as she mixes it up with Alison Lee and Korean Chella Choi at 8:43 a.m., also on No. 1.
Yuka Saso, meanwhile, tangles with Ashleigh Buhai and In Kyung Kim at 12:59 p.m. at the backside with the 2021 US Women’s Open champion seeking to snap a string of missed cut stints in the last three LPGA events, including in Chevron Championship in Texas, one of the Tour’s major championships.