Tarlac—Thai Namchok Tantipokhakul came out of a two-hour rain delay in fierce form then came back from a bogey mishap with back-to-back birdies at the finish to shoot a five-under 65 and seize the clubhouse lead over unheralded Enrico Gallardo at the start of the ICTSI Luisita Championship here yesterday.
Gallardo came through with a four-under card after 10 holes then settled for pars the rest of the way to settle for second as the first round of the $100,000 event was stopped due to darkness following a two-hour delay due to heavy rains and threats of lightning.
But Choo Tze Huang could wrest the lead at resumption of play early today (Tuesday) after the former Singapore amateur titlist fired a bogey-free five-under card with three holes to play.
Korean Kim Dae Won also had a four-under card and Keanu Jahns went three-under after 15 holes while Aussie Fidel Concepcion, Swede Sebastian Hansson and CAT Open champion James Ryan Lam and Mars Pucay all had two-under cards after 15 holes.
Tantipokhakul, coming off a joint sixth place effort in the Solaire Philippine Open two weeks ago, flashed superb touch off the mound then bucked the softened fairways with a near-impeccable iron game to produce six birdies against a lone bogey for a 33-34 card under preferred lies rule.
“I played solid and putted very well,” said Tantipokhakul, who missed just three fairways and two greens while anchoring his superb opening round bid with 25 putts. “Not bothered by wet conditions. It’s actually good for long hitters like me.”
Tantipokhakul gunned down birdies on Nos. 3, 5 and 9 at resumption to outclass flightmates defending champion David Gleeson of Australia and local ace Juvic Pagunsan in one of the featured flights in the $100,000 event put up by ICTSI.
The 34-year-old power hitter from Chonburi birdied No. 12 then bounced back from a missed green bogey on the 14th with birdies on Nos. 16 and the difficult par-3 17th inside 10 feet.
Gleeson, who nipped Erwin Arcillas on the third playoff hole to nail his breakthrough win last year, hit three birdies but fumbled with the same number of bogeys while Pagunsan, seeking to atone for his missed cut stint in the Phl Open after dominating the PGT Asia Riviera leg last month, recovered from a double-bogey misadventure on No. 7 with birdies on the next and on No. 16 as the duo joined a big bunch of even par scorers but five shots off Tantipokhakul.
Jay Bayron checked a rollercoaster two birdie-two bogey game with three straight birdies from No. 13 but missed moving closer to or catching up with Tantipokhakul with flubbed birdies in the last three holes. He turned in a 36-33, the same nines put in by American Lexus Keoninh while Natthapong Niyomchon blew a solid backside 31 with two bogeys at the front to drop to Bayron’s group.
Finland’s Teemu Putkonen rattled off three birdies in the first six holes at the back but bogeyed the last to slip to joint fifth at 70 with Thai Kammalas Namuangruk and locals Elmer Salvador and Kuresh Samanodi while Thais Pasavee Lertvilai, Tawit Polthai and veteran Wisut Artjanawat and Gerald Rosales churned out identical 71s to boost their respective bids at the tight, hazard laden Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed layout.
Rosales, a former Phl Open titlist in an all-local field, showed flashes of brilliance with two birdies at the front but after a run of pars, the former amateur hotshot wavered at the finish, closing out with a bogey-birdie-bogey-bogey-birdie for a 37.
Some of the local favorites, however, fell way behind with fat scores and in danger of missing the top 50 plus ties cut in this kickoff leg of the third season of the region’s newest circuit backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High.
They include reigning PGT Order of Merit champion Jobim Carlos, who skied to an 82 marred by a triple bogey and two doubles bogeys while trying to buck a hand injury that forced him to withdraw from the PH Open after 18 holes.