THAILAND’S Wichanee Meechai flashed top-notch shot-making and putting, turning in a four-under 68 on Thursday to all but wrap up the ICTSI Splendido Ladies Invitational crown on her very first stint in the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour.
While the rest of the 28-player starting field struggled for the second straight day at the up-and-down, wind-raked Splendido Taal course, Meechai made it look easy with five birdies that negated her second straight bogey on the difficult No. 10.
At seven-under 137, Meechai is 13 shots ahead of compatriot Pennapa Pulsawath, who hit a 77 but still stayed in second with a 150 as the field floundered in tough conditions.
Anya Tanpinco remained the top local player at 151 after a 77, while Sarah Ababa fell a shot back at 152 after a 78. Cyna Rodriguez hardly improved from a disastrous 80 opening with a 76 for a 156.
Rodriguez overcame double-bogey on No. 5 and bogey on the next with three straight birdies to close out her front nine. But after a run of pars at the back, she dumped her third shot into the water hazard on the par-5 18th, missed the green then three-putted for a quadruple bogey.
In contrast, Walailak Satarak, another Thai bet, fought back from an 82 with a 72 to move to solo fifth at 154 while compatriots Saraporn Chamchoi and Supakchaya Pattaranakrueang made 78s to tie Chihiro Ikeda, fumbling with an 80, at 155.
Amolkan Phalajivin, last year’s champion, kissed her title-retention bid goodbye with a 79 for a 156 total.
Meechai, who will turn 22 next month, made sure the title would be staying with the Thais as she pulled away from the pack.
Four ahead of Pulsawath after 18 holes, Meechai birdied No. 1 then added another on the sixth with Pulsawath and the rest scrambling to even salvage pars on the layout’s unpredictable surface.
She was 9-up on Pulsawath at the turn and though she dropped another shot on the par-4 10th, Meechai more than made up for it with back-to-back birdies from the 11th before drilling another birdie putt on the par-3 15th.