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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Constantino explodes with 66, catches Fortuna at top

CLARK Freeport Zone—Harmie Constantino put up a 66 round so startling it turned what had appeared to be a one player’s show to an anybody’s race as she tied Mikha Fortuna in the lead after 36 holes of the ICTSI Mimosa Plus Championship here on Wednesday.

A big birdie-binge linking both nines of Mimosa Plus’ Acacia course led to a pair of 33s and lifted Constantino from six shots down at joint fourth to a share of the lead at seven-under 137 as Fortuna found the going a lot tougher after a flawless opening 65 and finished with a 72.

But Daniella Uy posted a second straight 69 on a strong finish to stalk the joint leaders at 138 and Korean Min Yeong Kim came through with a solid 68 to seize solo fourth at 139.

Sarah Ababa rallied with 68 to move to fifth at 140 while South Pacific Classic leg winner Florence Bisera likewise recalled her fierce form and matched Constantino’s six-under card she fashioned out in bogey-free fashion to tie Korean Seoyun Kim, who carded a 71, at 141.

Harmie Constantino studies the line of her putt. Manny Marcelo

Korean amateur Jiwon Lee, priming up for next Tuesday’s ICTSI Junior PGT national finals, put in a second straight 71 for 142 while Apple Fudolin and Chihiro Ikeda pooled 145 and 146 after 69 and 73, respectively.

But the chase for the top P120,000 purse in the 54-hole championship put up by ICTSI could be reduced to the top four players with Constantino, Fortuna and Uy gearing up for what promises to be a day-long battle of power, iron play, putting and nerves.

“The pin placements were difficult in the first two days, so it will be much harder tomorrow (today),” said Constantino, seeking to emerge the only three-leg winner in this year’s Ladies Philippine Golf Tour after scoring back-to-back victories at Luisita and Villamor Philippine Masters.

“But I’m playing pretty good. Hopefully, this continues tomorrow (today),” she said. “I’ll still do the same thing – work on my game and try to get better each day.”

Too far behind a hot-starting Fortuna, Constantino broke a birdie-bogey game from No. 3 as she mounted her charge with back-to-back birdies from No. 5 then netted another stroke on the par-5 No. 9.

Riding on the momentum, she birdied the 10th and picked up strokes in the next three to complete a five-hole binge for a running seven-under card. But she missed grabbing the solo lead with a mishap on No. 17, enabling Fortuna, playing in a flight behind, to salvage a share of it with a second straight birdie on No. 16.…

“I tried to make as much putts as I can. It just so happened that the putts that I was making kept dropping,” said Constantino.

Despite her 72, Fortuna, who blew the field with a first round 65 and took a four-shot lead over Uy, said she played a pretty steady round.

“The pins were tough and I tried to be patient. But it is what it is, one more day tomorrow (today),” said Fortuna, who continued to tone down expectations of a maiden win in the country’s premier ladies circuit backed by Kampfortis Golf, the official apparel of the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

“No expectations. I want to win but I really don’t think about it,” said Fortuna. “I don’t want to put pressure on myself. I just want to stay patient and not to get frustrated. I’ll just play one hole at a time and get birdies as much as I can.”

But expect Uy to save the best for last like she did in snaring the Forest Hills and Del Monte titles.

She made her move with a three-birdie splurge from No. 3 and though she stumbled with bogeys on Nos. 6 and 8, she birdied the ninth then bounced back from another miscue on No. 14 with birdies on Nos. 16 and 18.

Kim also hopes to make the most of her chances for a first LPGT victory after dishing out a solid 33-35 round behind a superb all-around game.

“My driving and putting were good. I really focused on them and I tried not to get any bogey,” said Kim.

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