Rianne Malixi charged back from two backside double bogeys with three birdies but wavered in the last nine holes as she posted 31 Stableford points and trailed Yana Wilson by 10 at the start of the Mizuho Americans Open-AJGA Juniors in New Jersey Thursday.
Three bogeys in the last eight holes at the frontside of the Liberty National Golf Club negated Malixi’s big recovery from a pair of 7s in the first two par-5s (Nos. 10 and 13) as she put in a 39-38 round for a five-over 77 output in stroke play.
It was worth 31 points under the Stableford scoring format where a double eagle is worth 8 points, eagle 5 points, birdie 3 points, par 2 points and bogey 1 point. No points are awarded to a double bogey or worse scores.
The ICTSI-backed Malixi earned nine points from her birdies on Nos. 11, 16 and 18, and 18 points from nine pars but settled for points on her four bogeys on Nos. 2, 5, 9 and 17.
That dropped her to joint 18th with three others in a field of 24 made up of the leading players in the American Junior Golf Association, who are vying for their own individual title side-by-side with the LPGA Tour.
Wilson, meanwhile, flashed top form and fired five birdies for a solid 67 worth 41 points as she led Elizabeth Rudisill, who posted 38 points from a gross 70, by three, while Leigh Chien and Michelle Liu matched 37s points from a pair of 71s.
AJGA No. 1 Gianna Clemente and No. 2 Alice Zhao outshot the No. 7 Malixi in the featured flight with 34 and 33 points, respectively, but the 16-year-old Filipina shotmaker hopes to rebound in a switch in tee-times Friday.
In LPGA play, Yuka Saso leaned on a blistering four-birdie binge in a six-hole stretch from No. 13 to shoot a 69 and gain a share of fifth, four strokes behind American Lauren Hartlage, who set the pace with a solid, eagle-aided seven-under 65.
The big-hitting Saso, aiming to halt a string of missed cut stints, actually tripped in a backside start as she bogeyed No. 12 but quickly regained the stroke on the next before birdying Nos. 15, 17 and 18.
She, however, settled for a one-bogey, one-birdie card at the front for a 36-33 to tie Lydie Ko, Brooke Henderson and Ayaka Furue at fifth.
Aditi Ashok carded a 67 to seize solo second while Atthaya Thitikul fired a 68 for joint third with Stephanie Meadow in the $2.75 million event.
Brandishing a 306-yard norm off the mound, the ICTSI-backed Saso hit all but one fairway and missed just three greens but finished with a 30-putt showing, practically hindering what would’ve been a strong first round charge for the 2021 US Women’s Open champion.
Meanwhile, NCAA champ Rose Zhang also made an impressive pro debut with a 70 that featured five birdies against three bogeys as she joined 13 others at 12th place, five shots off Hartlage.