Danao City, Cebu—Guido Van der Valk rode on a fiery windup to shoot a five-under 66 and drive past an equally hot-finishing Michael Bibat, Jay Bayron and Aussie Jack Sullivan for a one-stroke lead at the start of the ICTSI Club Filipino de Cebu Invitational here yesterday.
Van der Valk took advantage of the three reachable par-5s of the par-71 CFdC layout, hitting an eagle on No. 11 to break an even-par game in hot but windy conditions and spark a finish that put the 39-year-old Philippine Golf Tour veteran from Lelystad, the Netherlands in front of a stellar 80-player field in the P3 million championship sponsored by ICTSI.
“I played pretty good with my long game, irons and putting,” said the long-hitting Van der Valk, who birdied Nos. 13, 15 and 16 after that eagle feat off a perfect -8-iron second shot to within 10 feet. “The course is tough with narrow fairways and tricky greens with the wind adding up to the challenge.”
But he bucked them all, including Bibat, Bayron and Sullivan, who for a while had held the lead at 67 until Van der Valk came in with his 34-32 card that put him on track for a follow-up to his breakthrough win at Eagle Ridge last year.
Bibat broke a two-bogey, two-birdie backside game with a strong finishing kick, going four-under in a three-hole stretch from No. 6 spiked by an eagle on the par-5 sixth as the former Asian Games bronze medalist got into the mix early in a bid to snap a long title spell on the Philippine Golf Tour.
“I was lucky to have scored this low, given the windy conditions and the unpredictable surface,” said Bibat, who nailed his maiden win at Rancho Palos Verdes way back in 2014.
Winless on the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. in three years, Sullivan also came out with scorching frontside windup on a course he had never played before, birdying three of the last seven to be in early contention with a 32-35 round.
“It’s quite surprising I made this round since this is the first time that I played this course,” said the 23-year-old shotmaker from Gold Coast.
But looming large is Bayron, who took charge early on with a four-birdie binge at the front then bounced back from a two-bogey mishap on Nos. 12 and 14 with birdies on the next two as the veteran Davaoeño ace, coming off a stint in the first PGT Asia event in Taiwan two weeks ago, stayed within a stroke of Van der Valk.
But a slew of others stood just another shot or two adrift, ensuring a shootout in the next three days in pursuit of the top P550,000 purse in the third leg of the milestone 10th season of the country’s premier circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.
Defendign champion Jhonnel Ababa, American Leoninh Keonin and Elmer Salvador all carded 68s, Johvanie Abaño, Japanese Ryo Nishimura and Lloyd Go turned in identical 69s and Albin Engino, Tony Lascuña, Swede Sebastian Hansson, Korean Hwang Myung Chal and Mars Pucay shot similar 70s.
Salvador opened with three birdies at the back and added another feat on No. 3 but missed joining the leaders with a bogey on the seventh of the short but tricky course that quite held its ground in the face of the field’s all-out assault on a hot, windy day.
Though the CFdC layout yielded a number of eagles and birdies, only 15 players from the starting field of 80 managed to break par with seven matching par 71s, making the chase for the top 40 plus ties worth watching in today’s second round.