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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Arevalo sneaks into Apo lead with gutsy 71

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DAVAO—Kristoffer Arevalo came out on top after a third-round battle characterized by survival instincts at the challenging Apo course here, crafting a brave 71 to find himself the bewildered leader in the ICTSI Apo Golf Classic Thursday.

Navigating through the intricate layout, Arevalo found himself atop the leaderboard filled with big names at two-over 218, one stroke ahead of reigning Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit winner Jhonnel Ababa and another shot clear of three other contenders.

The unpredictable nature of the course has seen a new leader emerge every day since the start of the 2.5 million championship, the kickoff leg of this year’s 10-leg circuit.

Despite the pressure of leading, the 24-year-old Arevalo remains remarkably composed, drawing on his extensive experience in tournament play.

“Honestly, I don’t feel any pressure,” said Arevalo confidently. “One thing I’ve learned from winning many tournaments while growing up is just to just play, literally play.”

“If pressure comes in, it will really affect me. But if I play my game, I won’t feel any (pressure),” he added.

However, Arevalo faces stiff competition from Ababa and a charging Guido van der Valk, necessitating careful planning and execution in the final 18 holes.

Ababa mounted a strong recovery from a challenging round, posting four birdies against a bogey in the last seven holes to stay firmly in contention at 219 despite a 76, while van der Valk pressed his bid with a 73 highlighted by a birdie on No. 18, tying Jay Bayron, who carded a 74, and Korean Minwook, who also shot a 76, at 220.

Van der Valk joins Ababa and Arevalo in the final round, while Bayron, Minwook and Keanu Jahns clash in the second-to-last group in what looms to be a wild final round test of will and character.

Jahns, who finished second to Tony Lascuña here in 2019, also battled back with a 72 to tie Lascuña, who floundered with a 76 after a 70, and Korean Hyun Ho Rho, who shot a second straight 73, at 221, while Zanieboy Gialon took solo ninth at 222, also after a four-over card.

Mars Pucay, who forced a six-way logjam at the top at four-over total with three birdies in the first six holes, slowed down with three bogeys in the last 12, finishing with a 72 for joint 10th at 223 with Marvin Dumandan, who fired a 70.

In the midst of intense competition, Arevalo emphasizes the importance of proper nutrition to sustain his performance on the demanding course.

“I would bring sandwiches and cold drinks. It’s hot out there and I need to stick to my routine,” said Arevalo.

Approaching the final round with excitement, he remains focused on his game plan, acknowledging the unpredictability of golf and the challenges that lie ahead.

“I don’t know if I’m really playing well, but I’m not going to dwell on the fact that I’m leading. I’m just going to continue executing my game plan,” said Arevalo, who made four cuts in seven tournaments in his rookie season last year.

With a joint fifth place finish in the PGT Q-School at South Pacific last week, Arevalo is poised to capitalize on his momentum and contend for victory in what promises to be an exhilarating finale.

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