JHONNEL Ababa and Zanieboy Gialon hit late birdies to card identical 69s then watched Jay Bayron hole out with a triple-bogey to snatch a one-stroke lead halfway through the ICTSI Calatagan Golf Challenge at the Calatagan Golf Club in Batangas yesterday.
Bayron looked headed to preserving an unblemished round for the second straight day when he rattled off six birdies in a nine-hole stretch from No. 13 to move 3-up of the field with at eight-under overall total. But veteran Davaoeño shotmaker, a two-leg winner last year, stumbled with his first bogey on No. 6 then dropped off the leaderboard with a wayward drive on the par-4 ninth and a poor approach shot.
He settled for a second 70, enabling Ababa and Gialon to take charge at five-under 139 after matching outputs for the second straight day in the P2.5 million tournament sponsored by ICTSI.
“The course is tough and you can’t take it for granted. I hit bad drives on Nos. 6 and 7 and made bogeys,” said Ababa, adding that he needs to toughen up and polish his putting to get a crack at the crown.
Gialon also stressed the need to take a conservative approach on some holes, ruing his errant drive into the woods on No. 10, resulting to a double-bogey.
“I need to be careful, particularly off the tee. Dapat laging sure-ball lang,” said Gialon.
First day leader Guido Van der Valk barely survived a rollercoaster round with a 71 and joined Bayron at third at 140 with long-hitting Orlan Sumcad, who fired a 69, while former Philippine Open champion Gerald Rosales turned in a 71 to seize solo sixth at 141.
With seven players pooling 142s, including Tony Lascuña and Americans Lexus Keoninh, Paul Harris and Nicolas Paez, and six more at 143s, led by back-to-back leg winner Clyde Mondilla, another fierce battle looms in the final 36 holes of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.
Lascuña, seeking a follow-up to his victory at Manila Masters at Eastridge last April, eagled the par-5 18th and turned a one-over card into a 71 to lead the two-under par overall scorers, who included Rufino Bayron and Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia.
Mondilla, who came through with a pair of one-stroke victories at Southwoods and Villamor last month, rebounded from a shaky 73 start with a 70 marked by five birdies but marred by a triple-bogey seven on No. 17.
Still, the 24-year-old Del Monte ace stayed in the hunt for the top P450,000 purse, just four shots behind Ababa and Gialon, two players seeking to snap a long spell in the circuit.
Ababa, who won two PGT legs back in 2011, went three-under with back-to-back birdies from No. 13 but dropped a shot on the par-3 16th before canning in a long birdie on No. 17th to string a 35-34 card.
Gialon, who racked up two victories in his rookie campaign in 2012 then ruled the rain-shortened Royal Northwoods leg in 2014, sizzled early with three straight birdies from No. 3 but fell back with a double-bogey on the 10th before rallying with two birdies in the last six, including on No. 18 for a 33-36.
Other 143 scorers are Richard Abaring (70), Jerson Balasabas (68), Jun Bernis (70), Anthony Fernando (72) and Arnold Villacencio (72).
Forty-three players advanced to the final 36 holes with Cassius Casas (75), Paul Echavez (76) and Reymon Jaraula (78) barely making it at 149 and Jobim Carlos (72-150), Mars Pucay (75-150), Ira Alido (76-150), Joenard Rates (75-150), Korean Park Jun Sung (79-153), American Elliot Hume (77-154) and Aussie Nathan Park (79-154) all failing to make it through in the event backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.