Silang, Cavite—Juvic Pagunsan succumbed to harsh conditions but still kept his spot on top despite a one-over 72, even padding his lead to two halfway through the ICTSI Riviera Classic in survival of the fittest at the Langer course here yesterday.
Howling winds and pelting rain forced even the long hitters to take 2-club adjustments in tackling each hole with Pagunsan, a noted strong finisher even in the most challenging conditions, yielding two strokes on the par-4 18th that marred his one-over 35-37 card.
But his two-under 140 total proved enough to put him two strokes ahead of Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who stumbled with a 72, and the charging Tony Lascuña and Japanese Takahashi Keisuke, who fired identical 70s that proved to be the norm in a punishing day at one of the country’s toughest championship courses.
The troika pooled identical 142s with Clyde Mondilla, the reigning Philippine Open champion, coming through with a rare eagle-3 on No. 16 to at least soften the impact of his double-bogey and bogey mishaps on No. 11 and 13, respectively. He saved a 72 and took solo fifth at 143.
Diminutive Joenard Rates, a former PGT Asia leg winner, closed out the frontside in birdie-double-bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie fashion that best typified the field’s day-long struggle, salvaging the other 70 for joint sixth at 144 with Jhonnel Ababa, who also fumbled with a 72.
“As I’ve said, nothing is certain here even if I’m in the lead,” said Pagunsan, upbeat but cautious of his bid for a record fourth straight victory on the Philippine Golf Tour following a sweep of the last three legs of the Visayas swing in Bacolod, Negros and Iloilo last June.
“There are so many good players out there, so I need to focus on my own game and not be complacent,” added the most feared player in the P2.5 million tournament put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Barely surviving the ordeal, Van der Valk vowed to stay focused and fight for every shot in the pivotal third round of the 72-hole championship serving as the sixth leg of this year’s PGT.
“It was tough. There was a lot of wind blowing around. I did well at the front but had some sloppy bogeys at the back,” said Van der Valk, who added he got somewhat lucky on the last hole where his shot went on a hazard but still two-putted for par.
“I have to fight for every shot. Club selection and trying to control the ball are so hard,” added Van der Valk, who tied Pagunsan at three-under in one stretch but reeled back with two bogeys in the last six holes at the front.
Focus will also be on the multi-titled Lascuña, who finally moved into contention following a series of so-so finishes in the circuit he used to dominate. He hit two birdies at the front to negate a bogey mishap on No. 18 for that 70.
“I played well despite the tough conditions, rain and wind. The course plays longer when there is strong wind. But I’m happy with my game, at least I have a chance to win again,” said Lascuña, who had won here at Riviera in 2011 after shooting a 23-under total.
Angelo Que, winner of the last PGT Asia leg at Southwoods last month, faltered with a 74 but remained in the thick of things at 146 with Ira Alido, who shot the fourth and last 70 in the day, Nilo Salahog (72), Anthony Fernando (73), Rufino Bayron (74) and Reymon Jaraula (75).
Exactly 40 players advanced to the final 36 holes at 10-over with former PGT Asia leg winner James Ryan Lam (77) and Marvin Dumandan and Charles Hong, who turned in identical 78s, assembling identical 152s, 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.