Bacolod—Jobim Carlos and Kim Joo Hyung took their familiar 1-2 spots in the pivotal third round of the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic with identical two-under 68s but found a rival one wouldn’t wish to engage in a final round shootout right at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club.
Juvic Pagunsan finally found his groove, range and touch at the Marapara layout he calls home, rattling off six birdies at the front that spiked his day-best 65 and put him back in the thick of things after a pair of mediocre rounds of 69-70 in the P3.5 million tournament put up by ICTSI.
Carlos, seeking a third crown in two months, also used a strong start of four birdies in the first eight holes to cushion the impact of his faltering finish (three bogeys in the last seven) as he grabbed the lead with a seven-under 203, just one ahead of Kim, whose bogey-free 68 and a 204 kept the 16-year-old find on course for a second crown after edging Carlos in the Pueblo de Oro Championship last month.
“I was happy to have walked away with the lead, given the tough backnine,” said Carlos, who quickly tied halfway leader Zanieboy Gialon with three straight birdies from No. 2. “It was a good thing I got off to a rousing start. Otherwise, I would’ve struggled all day.”
But looming large is Pagunsan, who missed joining Carlos at the helm with a second straight bogey on the par-3 13th, settling for joint second with Kim but earning a coveted spot in the championship flight and in the hunt for the top P650,000 purse in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“I was expecting to shoot 8- or 9-under but this is what was given. I’ll just try again tomorrow (today) where I expect to finish strong,” said Pagunsan, looking to mark his comeback on the Philippine Golf Tour with a victory right on the course where he nurtured his game.
Flashing solid shotmaking and iron play, Pagunsan birdied the first three holes then came through with back-to-back feats from no. 5 before closing out the frontside with another birdie. But he slowed down at the back, making three straight pars, then dropping a stroke on No. 13 before settling for pars the rest of the way.
But his 65 coupled with Carlos’ wavering finish set the stage for what could be another thrilling windup in this second of the four tournaments making up the Visayan swing of the circuit backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.
Eager to prove his worth, Kim hopes to get something from playing against the former Asian Tour No. 1.
“I’m looking forward to playing with Juvic and learn from him,” said Kim, who birdied Nos. 7 and 16 and stayed away from trouble with conservative play.
Like majority of the surviving 43-player cast, Gialon floundered at the tougher backside of the par-70 layout, fumbling with two bogeys and dropping two strokes on the par-4 No. 14 to hobble with a 73. Still, the PGT Calatagan leg winner last year didn’t stray too far behind with a three-day total of 205, just two shots off Carlos.
Jhonnel Ababa, winner of the PGT Asia Forest Hills leg last month, also bounced back into contention with a 66, moving to solo fifth with a 206 while longshot Dino Villanueva shot a 68 to wrest solo sixth at 207.
The rest could be too far off to pose a threat with Albin Engino, Elmer Salvador and American Pete Vilairatana all carding 69s for joint seventh at 208.
Tony Lascuña, six behind Gialon at the start of the round, pressed his bid with birdies on Nos. 3 and 5 but bowed out of contention with four bogeys in a five-hole stretch from No. 11, needing to birdie the 17th to save a 71 and a 209.
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