Rianne Malixi bucked an early mishap with a barrage of birdies to complete a career-best eight-under-par 65 and tie for sixth in the Annika Invitational in Orlando, Florida Tuesday.
Birdies, which proved elusive in the first two days, came like rain in the final round for the rising Filipina star, who rattled off nine, highlighted by a couple of three-birdie binges from 7 and 12.
The output also stood as the tournament best, eclipsing the previous 66s posted by eventual champion Ashlkeen Kaur and erstwhile leader Alice Zhao at the par-73 Eagle Creek course Monday.
From tied 26th, the ICTSI-backed ace, who had seven birdies against four bogeys n the first two rounds (72-73), bogeyed. 3 but birdied four of the next six holes then dominated the backside with five more birdies.
She joined the company of Nika Ito (67) and Kiara Romero (70) at nine-under 210.
Malixi wound up six strokes behind Kaur but her strong finish underscored the promise that the 15-year-old prodigy packs heading to her next campaign — the Queen Sirikit Invitational back home at Manila Southwoods next month.
Kaur took the spotlight in a day of changing fortunes, snatching the crown with a stirring closing eagle feat for a 69, edging Zhao by one on a 204 total.
The Chinese, who seized the solo control with a second round 66, firmed up her lead with a solid frontside 33 but was pulled down by bogeys on 10 and 14.
Zhao, however, proved far from being finished, birdying the par-5 16th to tie.
After the pair traded bogeys on the par-3 17th, Kaur came through with a pair of solid shots to set up the eagle that trumped Zhao’s closing birdie.
Katie Li made it a three-way battle with a 34 start and birdied. 12 and 13 to tie for the lead at 14-under overall. But she missed a couple of birdie chances on the last two holes and ended up with a 69 for joint second with Zhao on 205.
Vanessa Borovilos shot a 71 for fourth on 208 while Lauren Kim placed fifth on 209 after a 67 in the second leg of this year’s American Junior Golf Association circuit.
Thai Thanana Kotchasanmanee, who beat Malixi in the Citrus Golf Trail, tied for ninth on 211 after a 69, and reigning US Girls’ Junior champion Anna Davis ended up at joint 14th on 214.
The top 10 finishers all received trophies from legend and Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam.
Malixi, 11 strokes off Zhao after 36 holes, bogeyed. 3 after over-shooting the green.
She rolled in a four-foot birdie putt on the par-5 No. 4, then picked herself up from a flubbed birdie bid on the sixth with birdies on 7, 8 and 9 inside six feet.
As the wind picked up at the back, Malixi stepped up her attack, chipping in for birdie on 12 and draining a couple of four-footers to complete another three-birdie string.
After a routine par on 15, she tapped in for birdie on 16 and banged in a long birdie putt on the penultimate hole.
She actually found the hazard on 18 but chipped to within five feet and made the putt to save par and preserve a sterling round.
Malixi’s US trip is also sponsored by Skyflakes and Lola Nena’s.
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