Iloilo – Spain’s Marcos Pastor holed out with a six-foot birdie to highlight an eagle-spiked 68 and match local pride Rene Menor’s output for the third straight time yesterday as new leaders emerged in as many days in the ICTSI Iloilo Golf Challenge heading to a gripping finish here today.
Pastor’s last feat complemented his birdie putt on the par-5 14th that checked a rollercoaster round that featured two birdies against two bogeys and an eagle against a double bogey that put the Spaniard to within reach of a dream victory on the Philippine Golf Tour after topping the PGT Q-School (foreign) at Splendido last February.
But it will take more than talent, skills and momentum to achieve that goal as Menor likewise pressed his bid for a second career win with his own version of a two-under card, aided by a four-birdie binge from No. 6, as the duo, who missed the cut in Marapara last week, surged ahead at seven-under 203 after 54 holes of what has been a fierce battle for top honors in this P3 million event sponsored by ICTSI.
And if the first two rounds were any indications, Pastor and Menor, who carded identical 69s and 66s in the first two days, will have to toughen up to foil the expected final round charge by a host of bidders, led by Sydney-based Filipino Fidel Concepcion, who also carded a 68 to seize solo third at 204, completing an unexpected troika in the championship flight.
Japanese Makoto Iwasaki opened with a 64 but tumbled with 76 and 77 and Thai Kammalas Namuangruk stumbled with a 74 after wresting the halfway lead with 66-68.
But looming large is Juvic Pagunsan, who broke a run of pars and a bogey on No. 7 with three birdies in the last six holes, netting him a second straight 68 for joint fourth with Reymon Jaraula (69) and Michael Bibat (70) at 205, just two strokes behind the new joint leaders.
Menor, whose house is located near the 17th hole, rued his poor putting on a course he calls home, marred by misses from short range on Nos. 3 and 8.
“I could’ve taken the lead if not for those missed putts,” said Menor, whose form took a dip since scoring a breakthrough at PGT Asia in Splendido in 2017.
“I played aggressive and pretty good,” said Pastor, hinting at a closing five-under card to win it tomorrow (today).
Jaraula hit an eagle for the second straight day and gunned down two birdies but fumbled with three bogeys although his one-under card kept him in the hunt for a breakthrough victory in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Bibat also went up-and-down on the short but tricky layout that continued to bedevil the games of the surviving 40-player field but the former Asian Games bronze medalist fought back with birdies on Nos. 11 and 14 to salvage a 70 and stay on track of ending a long title spell since scoring his maiden win in 2013 at Rancho Palos Verdes.
Former all-Filipino Philippine Open champion Gerald Rosales also recalled fierce form to fire a bogey-free 66, jumping from joint 24th to a share of seventh at 207 with Art Arbole, who groped for a 71, four shots off the pace.
Namuangruk failed to rebound from a two-over 38 start with three bogeys against a birdie at the back as he limped with a 74 and fell off the leaderboard to a share of ninth at 208 with Ira Alido, who rallied with a 67, Jhonnel Ababa, Anthony Fernando and Colombia’s Mateo Gomez, who all matched par 70s.
The rest bowed out of the title race, including Aussie Tim Stewart, who faltered with a 74 and dropped to a share of 14th at 209 with Cebu leg winner Guido Van der Valk of the Netherlands and rookie pro Rupert Zaragosa, who both struggled with 71s in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.