BAGUIO – Cyna Rodriguez wielded a hot putter and produced a bogey-free six-under 63 to seize a four-stroke lead over a rallying Thai Amolkan Phalajivin as Jayvie Agojo limped with a horrendous 77 at the start of the P500,000 Camp John Hay Ladies Invitational at John Hay Golf Club here Tuesday.
Despite lack of practice on the rolling par-69 layout following a stint in Taiwan last week, Rodriguez still flashed top form, turning in a solid 32-31 round that set in motion her bid for a second title on the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour after dominating the kick-off leg at Orchard last April.
“I just like John Hay greens, they roll to my liking,” said Rodriguez, who arrived late Monday and missed the traditional pro-am.
But the reigning Order of Merit champion didn’t miss a putt all day, sinking a 15-footer on the first hole to get her rhythm going. She tapped in for birdie on the second, rolled in a seven-footer on No. 8, knocked down another birdie from two feet on No. 12 before birdying the last two par-5s on Nos. 16 and 17 from 15 and 20 feet, respectively.
The former Philippine Ladies Open champion also credited her caddie for her scorching start in the 54-hole tournament serving as third stage of the eight-leg circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
“She was good and was really a big help,” said Rodriguez.
Phalajivin, meanwhile, turned an awful start into an explosive windup, rattling off six straight birdies from No. 11 for a 29 and a two-under 67. Hounded by a poor iron game that led to a three-over 38 start, the 26-year-old shotmaker from Bangkok settled down at the back but missed completing a big comeback with a missed green bogey on the 17th.
“I had a bad start and was off on my yardage on second shots and couldn’t go up-and-down. But James told me to calm down, enjoy and have fun in the last nine holes,” said Phalajivin, referring to beau local pro James Ryan Lam who caddied for her.
Phalajivin chipped in from 15 yards on the par-3 11th then hit birdies after birdies in the next five holes inside 13 feet as she took the challenger’s role after Agojo went birdie-less on a cold morning and reluctantly signed an eight-over 77.
Agojo, coming off a big victory at Riviera last week, failed to sustain her charge, at least in the opener of the event backed by by Nike, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp as she fumbled with eight bogeys in a 40-37 card that dropped her to joint 10th with amateur Nikki Bruce.
“My putting was awful,” rued Agojo then immediately left the posh Camp John Hay clubhouse.
Anya Tanpinco also rallied with a 32 to salvage an even par 69 for third while Sarah Ababa carded a one-over 70 followed by Korean Kwon Seo Yon, who birdied No. 1 but failed to add another and hobbled with a five-over 74, marred by a triple bogey on No. 9.
Apple Fudolin also turned in a 74 while former Philippine Ladies Open winner Heidi Chua and Jan Punzalan were tied at 76 and Eva Minoza and Lina de Guzman stood behind Agojo and Bruce with 78s.