LIPA, Batangas – Cyna Rodriguez rode on a fiery backside stint to whisk off Jayvie Agojo and storm to a three-stroke lead with a 69 and into the threshold of a third victory in the season in the P500,000 ICTSI Mt. Malarayat Ladies Classic at Mt. Malarayat Golf and Country Club’s here Thursday.
Pressed by Agojo at the turn, Rodriguez unleashed a strong finishing kick with three birdies in the last nine holes for a 33 that put the reigning Order of Merit champion, who bucked poor putting to card a 72 in the first round Wednesday, on a familiar place at 141.
“I was on target with my drives and my putting was okay,” said Rodriguez after moving 18 holes away from scoring a follow-up to her runaway victories at the Orchard and John Hay legs of this year’s ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Agojo, who opened with a 73, hit all but three greens in regulation but just couldn’t sink the putts, making just three out of eight birdie opportunities and settling for a 71 and a 144 in the 54-hole tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Nike, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp.
“I could’ve easily shot a 6-under with my great game. I got the right speed and direction but my putts just wouldn’t fall in,” rued Agojo, who birdied Nos. 16 and 17 but flubbed a 10-foot putt for par on the 18th to fall behind by three.
Thai Amolkan Phalajivin struggled with a slight arm injury in the early going but battled back with closing back-to-back birdies to salvage a 73 and move to third at 146, five strokes off Rodriguez.
“I was on the range Wednesday when I felt it. My arm was hurting and sometimes becomes numb. I thought it was nothing but when I woke up, the pain was still there,” said Phalajivin, who headed straight to a hospital after turning in her scorecard that yielded five bogeys against four birdies.
First round leader Chihiro Ikeda hobbled and limped with a 76 with a bad back after a 71 and tumbled to fourth at 147 while Korean Kwon Seo Yon matched Rodriguez’s closing 33 to save a 74 for a 148.
“When I execute a shot, it is really painful. It was not much of a problem in the first round but today (yesterday) it was. I hope the pain goes away in the final round,” said Ikeda.
Sarah Ababa blew a 36 start with a 39 and slid to sixth at 150 while amateur Angela de Villa bogeyed No. 16 and ended up with a 72 for joint seventh with Lovelynn Guioguio, who carded a 74, at 151.
As Ikeda floundered with three bogeys in the first six holes, Agojo took the challenger’s role, birdying No. 8 to go one-up on Rodriguez, who bogeyed No. 7 but birdied the ninth to draw level with the Riviera leg champion.
But what was expected to be a back nine shootout turned out to be blow-out as Rodriguez gained on a two-shot swing with a birdie on the par-3 No. 11 from 15 feet which Agojo bogeyed after flubbing a par putt bid from 10th.
Agojo did fight back with a birdie on the next only to reel back with a bogey on the 13th and Rodriguez went 3-up with another birdie on the par-3 15th. Agojo birdied the next and matched Rodriguez birdie on the 17th but the former failed to return a 10-footer for par after missing the 18th green.