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CLEAR SHOT — Eyeing 1st LPGT title, Fortuna opens with 4-stroke lead


‘I feel like it’s going to be the approach shots and putting.’

OFF to a strong start, Mikha Fortuna gains dramatic inroad to her first LPGT title. | photograph by Joey Sanchez Mendoza for the Daily Tribune @tribunephl_joey

CLARK Freeport Zone — Mikha Fortuna outgunned double champ Daniella Uy in the last nine holes, posting a brilliant seven-under 65 for a four-stroke lead at the start of the ICTSI Mimosa Plus Championship at Mimosa Plus’ Acacia Lakeview course here Tuesday.

Fortuna sustained her four-birdie splurge in the first nine holes with three more feats at the back as she kept on producing superb approach shots that set up a number of birdie chances.

She also pounced on Uy’s struggle while the latter tried to buck tough pin placements as she opened a commanding lead in the P1 million, 54-hole tournament put up by ICTSI.

“I feel like it’s going to be the approach shots and putting,” said Fortuna when asked of the key to taming the 5,796-yard course and fueling a title drive that got derailed the last time out at South Pacific Classic in Davao.

Fortuna battled Uy shot-for-shot and putt-for-putt in the early going, hinting at a day-long shootout between two of the fancied players in the fold. After the former birdied the opening hole, Uy matched her rival’s birdie runs on Nos. 2, 5 and 9.

But as Fortuna kept firing away birdies on Nos. 11, 13 and 16, Uy failed to equalize, settling for a run of pars and a 69.

“I struggled a bit finding a birdie. I can’t close in on my approach and can’t putt. It won’t fall in place,” Uy said in Filipino. She was aiming to emerge as the only three-leg winner this year after scoring back-to-back victories at Valley and Forest Hills.

The former Junior World champion also rallied to snare runner-up honors at South Pacific.

“The par-5s are reachable and the par-4s are short, so whoever scores most birdies gets the edge,” Uy said.

Korean Seoyun Kim eagled the par-5 No. 5 and hit two birdies but miscues on Nos. 4 and 8 dropped her to third at 70. Harmie Constantino, also a two-leg titlist in the season about to end, shot a 71 for joint fourth with Kristine Fleetwood and Koreans Min Yeong Kim and amateur Jiwon Lee.

Velinda Castil, eager to prove her worth against Fortuna and Uy after missing the cut in her first stint as a pro in Davao, lost her way in the face of her top rivals’ scorching starts. She birdied No. 3 but made four bogeys and a double bogey at the front.

The 15-year-old shot-maker from Bukidnon, whose strong joint runner-up finish at Del Monte prompted her to turn pro, found the going tough in the last seven holes.

There she played six-over, marred by another double bogey on No. 16. She wound up with an 83 and barely made the cut in the tournament backed by Kampfortis Golf, the official apparel of the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.

But from the looks of it, it would take a lot of effort and hard work for Uy and the rest of the early contenders to cut short Fortuna’s stay at the helm.

“This course is short so I was able to put it on better spots and create more birdie chances,” said Fortuna, who tied for the lead with eventual winner Florence Bisera heading to the final 18 holes of the South Pacific Classic but faltered with a closing 76 and wound up third.

But with a huge lead, the former national team mainstay and Oklahoma U product could be looking forward to finally joining the elite circle of winners on the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.

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