Malixi blows bid on last-hole mishap

RIANNE MALIXI dispatched Americans Kiara Romero and Julia Misemer with a big frontside charge but fumbled at the finish for a 69 and lost by two to a late-charging Kaitlyn Schroeder in the Girls Junior PGA Championship at Cog Hill’s Ravine course in Illinois Friday.

Malixi wrested control halfway through the final round but wavered at the back, recovered to tie on No. 16 but yielded the crown to Schroeder, who pounced on a clutch two-shot swing on the 72nd hole on a closing birdie that spiked a brilliant 66 in a flight ahead of the championship group.

Needing to birdie the 18th to force a playoff, the International Container Terminal Services Inc.-backed Malixi ended up with a bogey instead, impairing what could’ve been a big bounce back from bogeys on Nos. 10 and 14 with back-to-back birdies from No. 15 that drew her level with Schroeder at 13-under overall.

But the two-time American Junior Golf Association tour winner missed regaining the lead with a flubbed side-hiller from six feet on the 17th. Aware of Schroeder’s last-hole feat, the young Filipina star attacked the closing par-4 hole but her approach went past the unreceptive green and into the thick rough. She made it in three and two-putted for bogey.

That enabled Schroeder to snare the crown at 14-under 274 behind a pair of 33s, capped by three birdies in the last five holes, in a big morale-boost for the recently crowned Rolex Girls Junior champion bracing for next week’s US Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay at University Place, Washington.

Malixi, who will join compatriots Nicole Abelar and Tomi Arejola in the US Women’s Amateur, finished solo second with 276, ruing blowing her clear crack at the crown after storming ahead with a scorching 32 after nine holes. She wavered with two miscues in the first five holes at the back but battled back with two birdies to catch Schroeder and set the stage for a pressure-packed finish.

Though she lost grip of the lead in the face of Malixi’s blistering start, Romero stayed in the hunt with a frontside 34 but bowed out with a bogey in a birdie-less backside finish. She wound up with a 71 for third at 277.

Misemer cracked under pressure early, failing to recover from a double bogey on No. 7 for a frontside 38. She faded with a bogey on the 10th and a triple-bogey on the par-5 next but put up some semblance of a fight with four birdies in the last seven holes.

She hobbled with a 74 and wound up tied at fourth at 280 with Thai Thanana Kotchasanmanee and Katie Li, also of the US, who carded 68 and 69, respectively.