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Malixi slips with 74, trails leader by 8

MANILA, Philippines -- Rianne Malixi faced difficulties in finding her form in a challenging backside start, ending up with a two-over 74 and leaving her eight shots behind Scotland’s Hannah Darling after 18 holes of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in Augusta, Georgia Wednesday (Thursday Manila time).

In her first appearance on the women’s amateur golf’s grandest stage, Malixi initially kept pace with pars on her first three holes but slipped with bogeys on Nos. 13 and 16 at the well-kept Champions Retreat Golf Club.

Facing the pressure to improve her spot in a round where scores were generally low and play was briefly halted due to bad weather, Malixi managed a birdie on the fifth but struggled with a subsequent bogey on the next, finishing with a 36-38.

Malixi, whose runner-up finish in the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley in South Carolina two weeks ago lifted her to No. 26 in the latest World Amateur Golf Ranking, fell to a tie for 44th in a starting field of 72.

The ICTSI-backed shotmaker now faces the daunting task of significantly lowering her score in Thursday’s second round, also at Champions Retreat, to aim for the Top 30 and ties and snare a spot to play at the iconic Augusta National in the final round on Saturday.

However, all competitors will have the opportunity to experience Augusta National in Friday’s scheduled practice round.

A total of 28 players posted under-par rounds, a new Championship mark.

Darling, meanwhile, set a strong pace, birdying the first three holes at the front then recovering from back-to-back miscues from No. 4 with birdies on Nos. 6, 8, 9, 14 and 17, leading to a lead-grabbing 66.

On her third start in the prestigious event, Darling, a two-time Curtis Cup player, took a one-stroke lead over world No. 1 Ingrid Lindblad from Sweden, Thail Eila Galitsky and Italy’s Francesca Fiorellini.

Lindblad turned in a impressive six-birdie, one-bogey card, Galitsky gunned down four birdies against a bogey then holed out with an eagle on the par-5 No. 18, and Fiorellini posted a bogey-free 33-34 round, highlighted by three birdies in the last seven holes at the front.

“I was really disciplined. Me and my caddie made some really