RIANNE MALIXI survived another scrambling round at the Liberty National course but the top Filipina amateur upstaged Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour campaigners In-Kyung Kim and Lucy Li with a 73 worth 35 points in the third round of the Mizuho Americans Open-Amerian Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Juniors in New Jersey Saturday.
Kim, a seven-time winner in the world’s premier circuit, including the Women’s British Open in 2017, and two-time Epson Tour titlist Li both carded 74s and yielded the stage to Malixi, who shot five birdies but made four bogeys and a double bogey for a 38-35 card.
The LPGA players, however, tackled the par-72 layout over the 6,700-yard distance, 300 yards longer than the AJGA group.
Although the 16-year-old International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI)-backed Malixi moved to solo 13th from joint 16th with 100 points, she remained 10 points behind Yana Wilson and Anna Davis in their side of the American Junior Golf Association battle heading to the final round of the 72-hole championship held side-by-side with the $2.75 million LPGA.
Davis fired a tournament-best 43 points from a gross 66 she spiked with an eagle on No. 6 as she caught up with Wilson, who slowed down with 31 points with a five-over 77, for 110 points, four clear of Kiara Romero and Sara Im, who pooled 106 points after 38 and 33, respectively.
Ranged against the LPGA mainstays for the first time, Malixi held her ground with pars in the first two holes then birdied No. 3 from 12 feet. She two-putted for par on the next and went up-and-down on the fifth but bogeyed the next two on missed green mishaps.
She gained a stroke on the par-5 eighth, dropped two shots on the ninth but kicked off her backside bid with back-to-back birdies and barely completed a three-birdie binge on the 12th.
A couple of errant hits, however, led to a bogey on the next, then recovered from a muffed birdie putt on No. 14 with a 10-footer feat on the 15th. She missed a pair of birdie chances in the next two holes and overshot the 18th green and failed to return a 10-footer for another bogey.
Kim shot two birdies but made two bogeys and holed out with a double-bogey for a 35-39 while Li gunned down an eagle and hit two birdies but stumbled with two bogeys and two double bogeys for a 36-38 for 219s.
Malixi, with a nine-over 225 total in stroke play, faces Swede Anna Nordqvist and Aussie Grace Kim, who both assembled 214s, in the final round.
Meanwhile, Yuka Saso fought back from a second round 74 with a second 69 as she improved to joint 12th with a four-under 212 aggregate, seven shots behind former amateur hotshot Rose Zhang, who moved on the threshold of a successful rookie pro debut with a solid 66.
Zhang totaled 11-under 205 as she grabbed a two-stroke lead over Thai Atthaya Thitikul and India’s Aditi Ashok, who matched 68s, and Cheyenne Knights, who carded a 70, for 207s.
Saso, whose campaign is also supported by the world’s leading port operator, snapped a two-birdie, two-bogey frontside card with birdies on Nos. 11 and 13 then the 2021 US Women’s Open champion bucked a mishap on No. 15 with birdies on Nos. 16 and 18.