Thai Natthapong Niyomchon and Taichi Nabetani of Japan led the assault of the foreign aces at the Southwood’s Legends course with superb shotmaking and putting, turning in pair of six-under 65s to seize the clubhouse lead at the start of the rich ICTSI Manila Southwoods Championship ADT in Carmona, Cavite on Wednesday.
The duo took advantage of calm conditions on early morning starts and pounded the hazard-laden layout with their near-flawless rounds with Niyomchon highlighting his 31-34 card with four straight birdies from No. 3 before holing out with back-to-back birdie feats. He actually fumbled with two bogeys on Nos. 11 and 15 but tied with birdies on Nos. 9 and 13.
Nabetani also leaned on a fiery start of back-to-back birdies and closed out his frontside stint with two more birdies. He reeled back with an unlikely bogey on No. 10 but strung up three birdies on the next en route to a 32-35.
Niyomchon and Nabetani stood a stroke up on another pair of Thais Pijit Petchkasem and Pannakorn Uthaipas and Malaysian Gavin Green, who finished with identical 66s fashiond out in varying fashions.
An hour-long delay due to threats of lightning late in the afternoon stranded a number of flights, including Mhark Fernando, who took the cudgels for the local bets when fancied Tony Lascuña struggled with his putting and ended up with an even par 71 despite a morning start and Miguel Tabuena failed to get going on a late tee-off.
Fernando, seeking an end to a long title spell, kept a bogey-free five-under card with three holes left in the opener of the $60,000 event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
“I just couldn’t putt and missed at least four birdie chances,” rued Lascuña, who came into the $60,000 event, the first of two Asian Development Tour events, as one of the favorites following a runaway win at Luisita two weeks ago and playing on his home course.
He hit three birdies but bogeyed the par-3 16th and dropped two shots on the par-4 No. 5 when he overshot the green, hit a fat third shot and made it in four and two-putted.
Petchkasem blazed the frontside with an eagle-aided six-under 30 to offset his double-bogey on the par-3 16th, finishing with a 66 in a tie with Green, who rammed in six birdies against a bogey, and Uthaipas, who also sizzled with an opening 31 before slowing down at the back.
The Legends, turned into a par-71, took a severe beating from the morning group with 23 putting up under-par cards and eight matching par before it held up a bit when the wind began to whip up towards mid noon.
Former amateur star Jobim Carlos, out to atone for his missed cut pro debut at Luisita, looked headed for an explosive start but stumbled with a bogey on the par-5 17th and settled for a four-under 67, the same output put in by fellow locals Zanieboy Gialon, Albin Engino and Michael Bibat and Thai Nirun Sae-ueng.
Like Lascuna, Tabuena sputtered when the others went on a birdie spree on a hot, humid day, mixing three birdies with two bogeys before play was stopped at 4 p.m.
Yuto Katsuragawa, the young promising amateur who dominated the ranks in the local pro circuit last year, threatened to crash the top guns’ party, hitting five birdies against a bogey after 15 holes to stay in the early mix of contenders in the 72-hole championship co-sanctioned by the ADT and PGT and backed by
Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Sharp, Summit, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade and Champion.
Mars Pucay fired a three-under 68 for joint 11th with Thai Poom Saksansin, Malaysian Baxter Reeves and Indonesian Ian Andrew while Natthapong’s sibling Donlaphatchai Niyomchon shot a 69 to join the big group of two-under scorers, who included Japanese Yuta Sudo, Chinese Cao Yi, Thai Kasidit Lepkurte and Mitchel Slorach.