Sarah Ababa bucked the heat and the tough Sherwood greens to salvage an even par 72 and move into the threshold of a breakthrough win on the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour with a two-stroke lead over Korean amateur Hwang Min Jeong in the second round of the ICTSI Sherwood Ladies Championship Wednesday.
Ababa hit two birdies early to overcome a two-stroke deficit off Chihiro Ikeda then checked a bogey-bogey mishap from No. 14 with a birdie from eight feet on No. 16, saving a 72 that proved to be the best in demanding condition at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club in Cavite.
Counting her opening 73, Ababa pooled a 145 and took a two-shot lead over Hwang, who missed joining the Filipino shotmaker at the helm with a double-bogey on the 18th, settling for a 74 and a 147 in a tie with the overnight leader.
Ikeda, who sparked hopes of ending a long spell in the circuit sponsored by ICTSI with a solid one-under 71 Tuesday, survived a rollercoaster stint in the first 13 holes only to falter with four bogeys in the last five holes for a 76.
Korean Kim So Un carded a 77 for joint fourth at 153 with Anya Tanpinco, who limped with a 78, the same output put in by Cyna Rodriguez, who failed to recover from an opening 76 with a 78 marred by five bogeys and a double bogey with a lone birdie to show.
The reigning back-to-back Order of Merit champion and runaway winner of the last leg at Riviera last month, fell farther back at 154, nine shots off Ababa, now 18 holes away from improving on her joint runner-up finish at Riviera and ending a three-year search for a championship.
“I just went out there and played my game, hit a chip-in birdie on No. 5 and birdied the par-5 No. 8 for the second straight day,” said Ababa. “I actually struggled in last few holes and made bogeys but sank a long putt on No. 16 to keep me going.”
But Hwang loomed as a serious threat as the young shotmaker held her ground against the pros with a gutsy round of two birdies against two bogeys and a slew of regulation pars on the hard greens of Sherwood until she wavered with that last-hole mishap.
Ikeda is also expected to rebound from a poor finish with a strong start in today’s final round where she hopes to apply the pressure early on Ababa and give herself a crack at the crown in the fifth leg of the eight-stage circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, inc.
Another Korean amateur, Koh Eu Na, shot a 79 and stood behind Rodriguez at 153 while American Cristina Corpus skied to an 81 for a 158 and former leg winner Thai Amolkan Phalajivin fell out of the race with an awful 84 for a 160.