Japanese Mayuna Furukawa came out virtually unscathed in wicked conditions, dispatching erstwhile co-leader Chonlada Chayanun of Thailand and Taiwanese Hsuan-Ping Chang with a gutsy finish to salvage a 71 and gain solo control after 36 holes of the ICTSI Pradera Ladies Classic at the Pradera Verde Golf and Country Club in Lubao, Pampanga yesterday.
Two birdies in the last six holes, including at the water-laced par-5 18th from long range, shoved Furukawa past a charging Thai Wanchana Poruangrong for the lead at four-under 140 as Chayanun and Chang, just a stroke off the joint first round leaders, faltered at the front trying to buck the rain, the heat and the wind in another challenging day in the $80,000 Ladies Philippine Golf Tour event sanctioned by the LPGA of Taiwan (TLPGA).
“I struggled with my short game but the wind not so strong unlike in the first round,” said Furukawa, who fired four birdies from as far as 20 feet against a bogey on No. 5 and a double bogey on the par-3 11th where she hit out-of-bounds.
But after surviving two days of battle with nature and the elite field and emerging on top with 18 holes to play at the all-weather layout, the 22-year-old ace from Nagoya looks forward to hoisting the trophy tomorrow (today).
“But it depends on the weather condition. The course becomes difficult because of the rain and you have to play extra cautious out there,” said Furukawa, who tied for 29th in the ICTSI Manila Golf Classic last April.
But with Poruangrong charging back from joint 13th to within one at 141 after a 69 and compatriot Chamchoi also moving from the same spot to third at 142 with a 70 in a tie with local bet Daniella Uy and steady Taiwanese amateur Hou Yu-Chiang, who both carded 72s, the title chase could go down to the last shot and putt and to the one with the poise and character in such demanding playing conditions.
Thai Jackie Chulya likewise put herself in contention after a 75 as she shot the tournament-best 68 to threaten at joint sixth at 143 with compatriot and Manila Golf leg winner Arpichaya Yubol, who carded a 71.
Unlike Furukawa, Poruangrong lost her momentum at the back after a solid start of four birdies in the first five holes, bogeying Nos. 10, 14 and 16 against birdies on Nos. 13 and 15, but struck a solid approach shot on the 18th to within four feet for birdie and the lead until Furukawa grabbed it late in the day.
“Strong wind caught me in the back nine,” said Poruangrong, still in pursuit of a maiden win on the local circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Empire Golf and Sports and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.
“I’ve been campaigning her the past two years but no success. Hopefully, I make it this time,” said the 25-year-old Poruangrong, hinting at a closing five-under card to realize a dream LPGT championship.
Despite her scrambling round that featured three birdies against the same number of bogeys, Uy also remained upbeat of her chances for a breakthrough win after finishing second to Pauline del Rosario at Royal Northwoods last April.
Princess Superal, who lived through the first round ordeal with a 71, birdied Nos. 3 and 4 as the former LPGT Order of Merit winner, on a break from Japan LPGA Step Up Tour, pressed her title bid. But after birdying No. 13 to negate her bogey on the sixth, the former US Girls Juniors champion dropped three strokes on the par-4 14th and failed to check her skid as weather conditions kept changing in a flash, bogeying Nos. 15 and 17 to end up with a 75. She fell to joint 11th at 145, now six strokes off Furukawa.
Other one-over total scorers were Thais Ornnicha Konsunthea, who matched par 72, Dolnapa Phudthipinij, who groped for a 74, and former LPGT leg winner Ploychompoo Wilairungrueng, who limped with a 75.
Fifty five players, including two amateurs, made the 36-hole cut at nine-over 153 with 2017 LPGT OOM winner Pauline del Rosario barely making it through at 152 with a 77 after a 75, along with LPGT Midlands leg winner Chihiro Ikeda, who skied to a 78, Taiwanese Chang Ching Ling (74), and Thais Pattaraporn Mounchoo (77), Punpaka Phuntumabamrung (76) and Chommapat Pongthanarak (76).