Lubao, Pampanga—Guido Van der Valk charged back from way down at 35th to the top of the heap with a new course record in as many days, churning out an eagle-spiked eight-under 64 to grab a one-stroke lead over Keanu Jahns and Thai Tawit Polthai halfway through the ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic here yesterday.
Reeling to the middle of the 78-player field with a two-over 74 Wednesday, the Manila-based Dutchman hit a pitch-in eagle to kick off his backside bid then recovered from a bogey mishap on No. 11 with seven birdies, including five in a scorching frontside finish to take charge at six-under 138 as the erstwhile leaders stumbled with over par cards on a wind-raked Pradera layout that punishes wayward shots and rewards solid ones.
Van der Valk’s 31-33 also bested Andreas Gronkvist’s 66 that netted him the first round lead but the Swede lost his touch in hot, blustery condition and hobbled with a 74, dropping to third with Mars Pucay and Thai Namchok Tantipokhakul at 140 with 36 holes left in the $100,000 event serving as the eighth leg of the second season of the Philippine Golf Tour Asia put up by ICTSI.
“I played really good. Everything’s in place, especially my irons and putting,” said Van der Valk, who saw his 58-degree wedge shot from 60 yards rolled and disappeared into the cup on the par-4 No. 10.
Jahns actually looked headed to seizing control with a five-under card after 14 holes for a running seven-under total but the Fil-German shotmaker bogeyed Nos. 6 and 7 on his way home and settled for a 69 and a 139, which Polthai matched with an eagle-spiked 66.
Pucay, seeking to snap a long title drought, turned in a second 70 while Tantipokhakul firmed up Thailand’s drive for a breakthrough PGT Asia victory with a 68 as the duo caught up with Gronkvist at fourth.
“I struggled with my putting and couldn’t handle my game the way I did yesterday (Wednesday),” rued Gronkvist, who failed to his 33 frontside effort in the first round with a 38.
Jhonnel Ababa, who launched his bid for a fourth PGTA diadem with a 68, fumbled with a 73 but stayed within striking distance at 141 in a tie with Clyde Mondilla (70), Sam Gillis of the US (69) and Thai Piya Swangarunporn, who started the day just one shot behind Gronkvist but limped with a 74 and dropped to joint seventh.
Fifty-five players advanced to the last two rounds with Omar Dungca (77), Anthony Fernando (76), Rolando Marabe Jr. (77), Thai Puk Pradittan (74), Niclo Salahog (72) and Orlan Sumcad (75) barely making the cut at 149.
Out of the chase for the top $17,500 in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. are Phl Masters titlist Jerson Balasabas (75-151), PGTA Orchard leg winner Damien Jordan of Australia (77-151) and PGTA CAT Open winner James Ryan Lam (80-156).
But the day belonged to Van der Valk, who ended a long winless spell on the local circuit with a victory at PGT Eagle Ridge last year. Coming off a birdie-less 74 start, he eagled No. 10 and birdied Nos. 15 and 16 to negate his lone bogey on the 11th.
With his long game, iron play and putting clicking, he came away with a pair of back-to-back birdie feats from Nos. 1 and 5 then birdied the par-3 eighth to spike his blazing windup.