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Abelar saves day

Nicole Abelar carried the day for the Philippines, firing one-under-par 72 to launch her bid in the 122nd US Women’s Amateur Championship at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington Monday.

The 20-year-old University of Houston star took advantage of an early tee time to produce one of 34 sub-par rounds of the day.

Abelar, one of three Filipinas in the field, opened with eight straight pars before three-putting 9 and 10 for bogeys.

“The course is easy when it comes to being on the fairway,” she said.

The challenge lies on the greens, according to Abelar.

“You need to have patience because there’s a lot of angulation and slopes that require imagination,” she said.

“There’s a lot of backstops and slopes that you can use to set yourself for birdie opportunities.”

The first birdie came on 11, a par-4, where she hit a three-wood off the tee and knocked her approach to within 10 feet.

“I started feeling my putter towards the end of the round starting on 15. I saved par from 16 feet and started drilling every putt in the next few holes,” said Abelar who birdied 16 and 17 from 10 and four feet, respectively.

Tomi Arejola and Rianne Mikhaela Malixi, however, struggled on the famed links course, shooting 76 and 77, respectively.

Arejola, the 21-year-old standout from Campbell University, had a cold start of two bogeys and a double bogey, made birdies on 10 and 13 before closing with bogey.

“I played good today except the par-5s,” she said.

“I got too greedy.”

She chunked a 50-yard approach on 4, the first par-5 hole, and ended up with a bogey.

On 8, another par-5, Arejola drove left into the thick rough and instead of punching it back to the fairway, she went for it, shutting the clubface, her ball going left again.

“Took me four shots to get out,” she recalled.

On 18, her final hole, Arejola found the bunker on her tee shot and did not find the fairway on her way to the green.

“Sobrang tanga lang,” she sighed.

Malixi, on the other hand, had a roller-coaster back nine where she started. She had two birdies, two pars, four bogeys and an opening double bogey.

She righted the ship coming home, stringing up nine straight pars.

Arejola and Malixi need to come up with some good numbers to get into the match play phase. Only the top 64 players advance after 36 holes.

Meanwhile, Chinese Alice Ziyi Zhao collected eight birdies against two bogeys to pace the event on 6-under 67, one shot ahead of Americans Angela Liu and Laney Frye.

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