Thai ace frustrates Malixi in Florida with closing 65

Thanana Kotchasanmanee of Thailand got off to a hot start and finished steady to shoot a sizzling seven-under-par 65 and frustrate the Philippines’ Rianne Malixi in Friday’s final round of the Citrus Golf Trail Ladies Invitational in Sebring, Florida.

Kotchasanmanee had two three-hole birdie streaks coming out as she quickly erased a three-stroke deficit at the start of the day to zoom to a two-shot lead she held on to tally a 72-hole 284.

Malixi, the ICTSI-backed ace, wasn’t all that bad, shooting a 70. She fell short of winning a seventh title for the year but remained in good spirits going into two tougher tournaments this month counting the Annika Sorenstam Invitational where the world’s best are seeing action.

“I played fine today (Friday). I know that I had put up a good fight in the first nine holes but (Kotchasanmanee) did better,” said Malixi, who birdied Nos. 4 and 5 after dropping a stroke on the third and rolled in an eight-footer on the seventh to hold sway.

But Kotchasanmanee chipped in for birdie on No. 7 to fuel another three-birdie run, tying the Filipino at five-under overall on the eighth and seizing the lead on the next as Malixi’s missed back-to-back birdie opportunities.

“I gave a lot of my putts really good chances but not enough to clinch the title,” said Malixi, a winner of three professional tournaments back home. “It’s still a fun week and knowing that I played consistently the past three days, this is a good start for this trip.”

Malixi shot a forgettable 78 to open the tournament on Tuesday as she failed to fight travel weariness after a long trip.

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She will next play in the Women’s Orlando International Amateur on Jan. 4-6 at Orange Country National before heading to the Sorenstam tournament on Jan. 15 to Jan. 17 at Eagle Creek Golf Club, also in Orlando.

Kotchasanmanee’s 65 came after she turned in pedestrian 73 and 74 in the first two rounds before moving to joint third, three strokes adrift of Malixi with a 72.

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