Top-ranked Guido Van der Valk, No. 2 Tony Lascuña, and the next three seeded bets bundled out their respective rivals in varying fashions but Fidel Concepcion stunned No. 6 Michael Bibat on the 20th hole in the opener of the ICTSI Villamor Match Play Invitational at the Villamor Golf Club yesterday.
Van der Valk eased out No. 32 Dan Cruz, 4&2; Lascuña shrugged off an early miscue to subdue fellow Davaoeño Paul Echavez, 3&1; No. 3 Clyde Mondilla, who rallied to win the revival of the Philippine Masters here at the quaint military layout in 2017, held off Mars Pucay, 2-up; and Caliraya Springs leg winner Zanieboy Gialon trampled Art Arbole, 4&2.
“I played relatively good. I hit a couple of good shots and the course is in perfect condition. I played many times here but I didn’t win, Hopefully, I’ll make it this time,” said Van der Valk, who topped the Splendido Taal and Pradera Verde stops of this year’s six-stage PGT to gain the top seeding in the four-day head-to-head battle.
He gets a chance to redeem himself from his last failed bid here as he takes on Jerson Balasabas, who beat him in sudden death in the Philippine Masters in 2018. Balasabas repulsed Dino Villanueva on the 20th hole.
Lascuna groped for his putting touch but recovered in time to see off Echavez although he stressed the need to polish his stroke to keep him in the title hunt worth P280,000.
“I’m good with my irons and short game but struggled with my putting, which I need to sharpen to keep me going in the next three days,” said Lascuña, who is also out to atone for his runner-up finishes in the last three legs of this year’s PGT.
But the four-time OOM winner gears up for grind out clash in today’s Last 16 stage with three-time Asian Tour champion Angelo Que, who edged Orlan Sumcad, 1-up, to seal perhaps the most gripping face-off ahead of the finals.
They start at 7:48 a.m. in the seventh pairing before the Van der Valk-Balasabas duel at 7:56 a.m.
The fifth ranked Miguel Tabuena and Que, in the lower half of the 32-player draw at No. 18, bucked fatigue and rivals of contrasting strengths to join the fancied bets and a slew of lesser lights to the next round of the first-ever head-to-head event in the country’s premier men’s and women’s pro circuit put up by ICTSI.
But while Tabuena, who with Que just came from an exhausting trip from Egypt where they vied in an Asian Tour event, hardly worked up a sweat in dispatching Richard Sinfuego, 6&4, the latter went through some anxious moments before foiling Sumcad.
Tabuena tests Rupert Zaragosa’s mettle after latter dominated legend Frankie Miñoza, 6&4.
The 27th ranked Concepcion, meanwhile, held his ground and upended Bibat, winner at Eagle Ridge-Aoki last July, after two extra holes as he and Que led four others in the lower draw into the next round of the championship which puts each player’s skills and toughness in focus in such kind of a knockout format.
No. 24 Keanu Jahns nipped ninth-ranked and former PGT Riviera winner Ira Alido, 1-up; No. 23 Gerald Rosales also edged No. 10 Joenard Rates, 1-up; former national champion No. 22 Anthony Fernando hacked out a 3&1 decision over No. 11 Sean Ramos; and 19th-ranked Jay Bayron turned back No. 14 Rico Depilo, 3&2.
Others who advanced were No. 8 Jhonnel Ababa, who disposed of Albin Engino. 4&2; and Lloyd Go, who ripped Marvin Dumandan, 5&4.
Mondilla also struggled before fending off Pucay but the former Philippine Open champion will have to dig a lot deeper against Bayron for a spot in the quarters phase of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“I had a tough time since Mars is also a strong player, just can’t be too confident in this kind of format,” said Mondilla.
The other second round matches pit Gialon versus Go, Fernando against Concepcion, Jaraula versus Rosales and Ababa against Jahns.
Que struggled trying to find his rhythm and yielded a hole to Sumcad after five. But after forcing an all-square match in the next three holes, he pounced on Sumcad’s three-putt miscue on the ninth to wrest control then hit a clutch birdie on No. 14 to spike his escape.
“The turning point was No. 9, he three-putted for me to go 1-up. Then at No. 14, I really made a good birdie and went 2-up and cruised from there,” said the amiable three-time Asian Tour winner.
“Villamor is a tough course and really good for match play,” said Que. “I started pretty bad, making two, three bogeys coming into the first five, six holes. Luckily I was able to come back and get the win.”
Like the rest of the bidders, he relishes the novel format, saying; “That’s the beauty of match play – you can just see what you need to do after you opponent hits a shot or depends on the situation.”
He also downplayed the fatigue factor, maintaining: “It’s not the first time when I went straight from the airport to a tournament. It’s nothing new for me. But Egypt was nice, I was able to see the Pyramids and able to play good golf. But unfortunately, not good enough to be up top, but it was a great experience for me.”