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Rianne closes in on leader

Rianne Malixi used an early stumble to catch fire at the back, producing a four-under 68 that pulled her to within two of Korean Hyo Song Lee halfway through the Malaysian Amateur Open at the Palm Resort Golf and Country Club in Senai, Johor Friday.

She missed holing out with an eagle after reaching the closing par-5 18th in two to within pin-length distance, the ball sliding past the cup for a 35-33.

But her fiery backside run more than made up for her struggle in the first round that led to a 73 as she moved to solo second on 141.

Playing in a flight ahead of Malixi’s, Lee snapped a two-birdie, two-bogey card after 11 holes with three birdies in the last three holes as the reigning Korean Amateur Open champion stayed in control on 139 after a 69.

“I hit more fairways today and made a lot of birdie opportunities,” said the ICTSI-backed Malixi. “I definitely left some putts out there but I was able to pull off a couple of long putts. Missed most of my (birdie) chances in the first nine then converted most at the back.”

Paired with Lee in the third round, Malixi said she’ll be sticking to her game plan while vowing to make the most of her birdie chances.

“I haven’t played Lee yet, so it will be an interesting game tomorrow,” she said. “But I will just stick to the same mindset as today — staying on the fairways and then opening doors for birdies.”

Lois Kaye Go, who matched Malixi’s opening 73 Thursday, hit three birdies in the first nine holes to threaten to within one off Lee. But the seasoned Cebuana made three bogeys coming home to settle for a 72.

She slipped to joint third on145 with Singapore’s Aloysa Atienza, who shot a 71.

Mafy Singson, however, posted a second-straight 77 and barely made the cut on 154.

After a pair of regulation pars, Malixi nearly birdied the par-3 No. 3 from the fringe then saw her birdie putt on the next lip out. She missed another opportunity from six feet on the fifth and dropped a stroke on No. 6 after overshooting the par-3 hole and hitting a poor chip shot that went past the green.

But the recent Thai Junior World champion struck a superb approach shot on the next and regained the stroke with a birdie. She flashed her power to hit the par-5 eighth in two for a two-putt birdie before going up-and-down on the next to make the turn at 35.

She muffed another four-footer for birdie on 10 but birdied 12 and 13, the last a “gimme” feat. Following a birdie on 14, she birdied 16 and 18.

Meanwhile, Shinichi Suzuki carded a 73 for joint ninth at 148, seven strokes behind new leaders Seung Hyun Pi, also of Korea, and Singapore’s Ryan Ang and Daryl Low, who all matched outputs for the second straight day — 71 and 70 — for the joint lead on 141.

Sung Ho Lee, another Korean ace, fired a 69 to close in on 142 while erstwhile leader Anson Yeo Boon Xiang floundered with a 79 after a 69 to tumble to Suzuki’s group on 148.

Elle Bisera, on the other hand, also rebounded from a 77 with a 74 for joint 15th on 151, 10 shots off the leaders.

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