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Rianne struggles anew, fires 68

Rianne Malixi continued to struggle on Panya Indra Golf Club surface’s speed and slopes, fumbling with three three-putt miscues that stymied what could’ve been a big charge by the rising Filipina star in moving day in the Thailand Amateur Open still led by local ace Vongtaveelap Natthakritta in Bangkok yesterday.

Malixi birdied the last hole to fire a second straight two-under 68 for a 205, chopping two strokes off Natthakritta’s overnight six-stroke lead with 18 holes left in the host country’s premier amateur championship.

Natthakritta, who dominated the first two rounds with 65 and 66 to build a big cushion over the ICTSI-backed ace and compatriot Kanayart Siripimlapat, actually threatened to blow the field away with two birdies in the first three holes. But she wavered with a bogey on No. 9 and a double-bogey on the par-5 12th but birdie No. 14 to save par 70 for a 201 total.

Shinichi Suzuki, who surged ahead of the men’s field halfway through, failed to recover from a wobbly start and tumbled from first to joint third at 214 after a 73, now three shots behind Thai Piamkulvanich Ashita, who took control with a 69 for a 211.

Suzuki, who anchored his surprising 36-hole surge with 70 and 71, dropped two strokes right on the second hole, yielded another on the next then hobbled with bogeys on Nos. 13 and 17 that negated his birdies on Nos. 7 and 10.

But the Manila Southwoods mainstay remained hopeful of his chances since no lead is safe at the par-70 layout, which continued to test not only the field’s shotmaking and putting skills but also their mental toughness.

Areephun Arsit grabbed second place at 213, two shots off, after matching par while Boonseeor Teerawut charged back with a 68 to tie Suzuki and Sarasmut Parin, who turned in a 72, at third.

Earlier, Malixi, falling behind by as many as eight shots, worked her way back with a birdie on No. 6, dropped a stroke on her first three-putt mishap on No. 7 but shot birdies linking both nines to cut the Thai’s lead to five.

But a missed putt from close range on No. 11 led to another bogey and though she sustained her fightback with birdies on Nos. 12 and 14, she chipped short on the par-4 17th and three-putted for a 6 before birdieing the 18th.

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