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Strong contention — Despite putting trouble, Malixi in position at moving day

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Roy Malixi WITH the way she’s playing, Rianne Malixi is keeping the Philippine flag waving proudly.

Rianne Malixi has a tight schedule for the new year. And it starts with the ongoing Australian Master of the Amateurs.

Her father, Roy Malixi, told the Tribune Golf that he only attempted to enter Rianne in the tough 72-hole tournament in Melbourne.

“I just emailed them and they quickly approved Rianne,” Roy said via Messenger.

And since she’s already in, she might as well give it her best, right?

That’s what Rianne has been doing the past two days, making sure she’s close to the leaders midway through the tournament at the Southern Golf Club.

She is just four shots off the pace after a 72 in Wednesday’s second round for a two-day total of 142 and a joint third place.

The incoming Duke scholar, who is poised to compete heavily in the United States this year, struggled with her putting and failed to match her opening-day 70.

Japanese Nika Ito held tight to the top position following a 70 for an eight-under 138, leading by one stroke India’s Avani Prasanth who turned in a 68.

Rianne is tied with Australian Lion Higo who posted a 71.

Birdies on Nos. 10 and 12 pushed Malixi to a share of lead early in the round until Ito fired three straight birdies. Meantime, the Filipina junior golf star missed birdies putts and three-putted.

Prashanth recovered from an opening-round trouble to move up as the reigning Queen Sirikit Cup individual champion moved to second with a 139.

The Top 45 and ties after three rounds will advance to the final 18 holes. The winner will get an invitation to the Webex Players Hunter Valley Championship, a full-sanctioned Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia and WPGA Tour of Australasia event.

The Webex event is slated 15-18 February at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort in New South Wales.

Malixi’s bid for a strong finish was hindered by inconsistent putting. She showcased moments of brilliance, including a four-footer for birdie on the 10th and a five-footer on No. 12, but struggled to sustain her momentum.

After a couple of missed chances inside 8 feet, the ICTSI-backed ace knocked down another birdie from 10 feet on No. 15, only to yield the stroke on the next with a three-putt miscue from 12 feet, failing to return a par-saving putt from five feet.

After parring the next three holes, the Royal Northwoods mainstay failed to rescue a par from the bunker on No. 2, but scrambled for par on the next before muffing a four-foot birdie putt on No. 4.

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