Rianne Malixi failed to gain on moving day as she settled for a two-birdie, two-bogey card, and a 73, virtually bowing out of the title chase in the Annika Invitational in Orlando, Florida Monday.
But while the Filipina ace struggled on Eagle Creek’s tricky surface, Chinese Alice Zhao flashed superb touch on the par-73’s layout’s undulating greens all day, dominating the backside with a solid six-under feat, highlighted by a brilliant five birdie-binge from 13.
With a 66, Zhao seized the solo lead on 134, one stroke ahead of Texan Ashleen Kaur, who matched Zhao’s flawless round.
Malixi stood just four shots off Zhao and Sophie Stevens of the US with a 72 start Sunday but missed three birdie chances inside nine feet in the first seven holes, including a birdie putt that lipped out on 2.
She missed the par-3 eighth and failed to save par from eight feet.
She made a 10-foot birdie on the par-5 ninth and rued another missed chip-in bid on 10.
The ICTSI-backed shotmaker then muffed five birdie putts inside 10 feet in the last eight holes that also saw her drop another stroke on 14.
She recovered the stroke on the par-5 16th from five feet.
With 145 aggregate, the 15-year-old world No. 151 slipped from joint 13th to a share of 26th, now 11 shots adrift of Zhao, who earned co-medalist honors in last year’s US Womens’ Amateur.
Katie Li, meanwhile, shot a 67 for a 135 and gained the last spot in the championship flight at 10:20 a.m. on No. 1.
Vanessa Borovilos kept herself in the title hunt in the second leg of this year’s American Junior Golf Association circuit with a 137 after a 68 while Kiara Romero and Trinity Beth, both of the US, tied at fifth at 140 after matching 67s.
The other fancied bets likewise floundered in the 54-hole championship, including AJGA top-ranked player Gianna Clemente, who carded a 72 for a 143, and defending champion Yana Wilson, who fumbled with a 75 for a 146.
Anna Davis, who lost to Wilson in sudden death last year, rebounded from a 74 with a 70 to improve to tied 20th at 144 but remained too far behind Zhao.
Malixi, who won two AJGA titles last year and ranked at No. 4 at the start of the new season, will tee off at 8:50 a.m., also on the first hole, with Elizabeth Rudisill, who fired a 71, from North Carolina and Grace McGovern from Arizona, who shot a 72, for 145s.