Malaysian Arie Irawan rattled off four straight birdies to close out the frontside en route to a bogey-free 66, joining six other players from different countries, including local ace Angelo Que, in a packed leaderboard at the start of the rich Aboitiz Invitational at the Manila Southwoods’ Legends course in Carmona Cavite on Wednesday.
Heavy rains on Tuesday night rendered some spots muddy with water had to be seeped out of some bunkers, forcing the organizing Asian Development Tour to use winter rules, leading to the pros’ assault of the shortened par-71 layout, which yielded 44 under par scores with 15 others matching pars.
Leading the charge was Irawan, chasing a follow-up to his four-shot romp over Miguel Tabuena in the ICTSI Eagle Ridge Invitational last April, who stayed in the lower half of the 126-player draw with five straight pars but surged to get a view of the top by stringing four straight birdies from No. 6 and adding another on No. 13.
The 24-year-old Irawan, the only two-time winner on the ADT this season, actually missed grabbing the solo lead in the strong field with a flubbed six-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
Like Irawan, Que came from out of nowhere to share the lead in the $100,000 championship sponsored by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, bucking an opening bogey mishap at the short par-4 No. 10 with six birdies, including back-from-back from No. 15 and four in a solid windup at the front.
“The front nine was a bit easier but at the back, it’s important to make critical putts on birdie holes,” said Que, a three-time champion on the Asian Tour and winner of two legs in this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
And if the first round results were any indication, a wild, wooly finish is seen in the third ADT event staged in the country this year co-sanctioned by the ADT and Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Finnish Janne Kaske matched Irawan’s four-birdie binge from No. 6 and went on to fire two more at the back against a lone bogey, Thai Pijit Petchkasem also fired a solid 32-34 card capped by a final hole birdie, Singapore’s Eugene Sim and Japanese Masaru Takahashi also opened with a pair of 32s, and Swede Malcolm Kokocinski leaned on a fiery 31 start as they joined Irawan and Que in the lead, one stroke ahead of eight other players who churned out identical four-under 67s.
They included Filipinos Jay Bayron, the inaugural winner of this event in Cebu in 2011, club bet Anthony Fernando, young turk Clyde Mondilla and Tonton Asistio, with Leon Ang of Singapore, American Sejun Yoon, Mark Leich of Australia and Thai Nirun Sae Ueng.
Defending champion Tony Lascuña also put himself in the mix with a 68, leading another big bunch of three-under scorers, who included Aussie Jake Stirling, Taiwanese Chan Shih-chang, Orlan Sumcad, Art Arbole, Joenard Rates, Robert Pactolerin and amateur Jobim Carlos.
Juvic Pagunsan, who led his team to the pro-am victory last Monday, kept a bogey-free card but hit just two birdies, finding himself down in joint 24th with Ferdie Aunzo, Australian Paul Donahoo, Alvin Engino, American Micah Shin, India’s Himmat Rai, Artemio Murakami, Charles Hong and amateur Angelo Gandionco.
Eleven others submitted 70 scores, including Mars Pucay, John Kier Abdon, Marvin Dumandan, Mhark Fernando, Zanieboy Gialon, Reymon Jaraula, Miguel Ochoa, Taiwanese Lee Cheih-Po, Korean Lee Gyeong Jun, Blake Snyder of the US and Aussie Jack Munro.
Current PGT OOM leader Miguel Tabuena recovered from a two-bogey start after six holes at the back, gunning down three birdies against one more bogey to salvage an even par 71 in a tie with Elmer Salvador, the event’s only two-time champion, France’s Erwan Vieilledent, Americans James Bowen and Paul Harris, Japanese Mitsuhiko Hashizume, Cookie La’O, Benjie Magada, Rey Pagunsan, Rolando Marabe, Paul Echavez, Singapore’s Quincy Quek and Reagan Png, Australian Sean Riordan and Willliam Sjaichudin of Indonesia.