HANGZHOU—Rianne Malixi held fort against some of the world’s best and delivered a solid round that put her in the medal race at the start of women’s golf in the 19th Asian Games Thursday.
Malixi shot two birdies in each nine of the West Lake International Golf Country Club in Xihu District to preserved a bogey-free 68 that netted her a share of seventh place with 39 others in individual play of the 72-hole tournament.
Chinese Ruoning Yin outshot Malixi 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.
Clyde Mondilla, meanwhile, put together a bogey-free seven-under 65 to tie for ninth place after the first 18 holes of men’s play also on Thursday.
In top form coming off a series of tournaments on the Philippine Golf Tour, Mondilla joined five others in the top 10, including India’s Anirban Lahiri, Taichiro Ideriha of Japan, Chinese’Taipei’s Chien-Yao Hung, Macau’s Ngai Si and veteran Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh.
Teeing off at the back, Mondilla, 29, birdied Nos. 12 and 17 and built on that start to produce five more birdies at the front, including three straight from No. 4.
But he stood four strokes off a hot-starting Yubin Jang of Korea, 21, who led the assault on the par-72 layout with an 11-under 61 behind a frontside 29 for a one-stroke lead over Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho, 22, who flourished with a 62.
“I played well today [Thursday]. It’s a great start,” Malixi said. “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-three 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.
Teammate Lois Kaye Go, however, failed to a 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.
Malixi and Go’s scores will count the rest of the three-to-play, two-to-count competition.
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.
Just knowing that I’m here to play against the best players, I have nothing to lose,” added the International Container Terminal Services Inc.-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.”
Baba took a two-stroke lead over Yin, who flaunted her world-class skills with a brilliant 31 against the ICTSI-backed 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 Philippines 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.
Jang, meanwhile, birdied the first six holes and added another on the eighth. He went eight-under with another feat on the 10th then recovered strong from his lone mishap on the 11th with four birdies in the last seven holes.
Wooyoung Cho helped anchor Korea’s imposing start as the 21-year-old rising star from Incheon fired a solid 63 to join the siege of the bumper crop of young guns in the four-day tournament that also features the team competition.
Other 63 scorers are Chinese Guxin Chen and Japan’s Masato Sumiuchi while Thai Phachara Khongwatmai shot a 64 for a share of sixth with Singapore’s KAJ Leow and Dengshan Koh.
But while Mondilla put himself in early medal contention, his teammates failed to measure up in a day of torrid scoring although amateurs Carl Corpus and Aidric Chan matched par 71s for joint 38th while adding a combined two-under total to Mondilla’s seven-under card in team play.
Ira Alido, a two-time PGT winner, however, settled for an even par 72 and stood at tied 47th in a huge field of 82.
Korea’s big start likewise netted them the lead in team play as it assembled a 26-under 190 in the four-to-play, three-to-count format event, four strokes clear of Singapore, which pooled a 194 with Japan in third with a 195.
The Philippines stood at ninth with a 207, 10 strokes off the fourth-running and regional rival Thailand, which made a 197.