Rufino Bayron stumbled with a late bogey and dropped to a four-way tie with three foreign aces that surprisingly held the fort in the early going of the ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic, all carding 68s for a one-stroke lead over six others at the start of the ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic in Lubao, Pampanga on Wednesday.
Bayron, seeking an end to a string of so-so finishes in the Philippine Golf Tour Asia, bucked the heat and the wind that bedeviled the games of the pre-tournament favorites but failed to complete a bogey-free card with a missed-green bogey on No. 16 for a pair of 34s.
That enabled Aussies Andrew Campbell and David Gleeson and Lexus Keoninh of the US to make it a crowded leaderboard with Jay Bayron, James Ryan Lam, Orlan Sumcad, Americans John Michael O’Toole and Nicolas Paez and Dutch Guido Van der Valk shooting identical 69s.
Jobim Carlos and Keanu Jahns churned out a pair of 70s in tough condition at the 7315-yard flat to stay in early contention in the $100,000 event serving as the seventh leg of the region’s newest circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
Except for Jhonnel Ababa, last week’s winner at Eagle Ridge, and Riviera titlist Clyde Mondilla, the three other PGTA leg winners found Pradera’s length too tough to overcome with Wack Wack champion Tony Lascuña settling for a one-birdie, one-bogey round (72) and Splendido winner Rene Menor and CAT Open titlist Justin Quiban groping for 73s.
“The course is too long, made tougher by the wind on some holes. It’s for the long hitters. I tried to offset it with my iron game but could only settle for regulation pars,” rued the 48-year-old Lascuña, winner of Tuesday’s pro-am.
As the power-hitting Campbell, Gleeson and Keoninh took charge midway through the day, Rufino Bayron, the former amateur hotshot who last won in 2015 at Orchard, sneaked into the lead with birdies on Nos. 3, 5, 10, 13 and 14, only to fall with a flubbed par-putt on the 16th.
Campbell, who like Rufino Bayron never got into contention at least in the last three PGTA legs, preserved a solid backside 33 with a birdie on No. 2 while Gleeson, who tied for 18th at Eagle Ridge, bounced back from a bogey on No. 5 with birdies on Nos. 7, 10, 11, 13 and 16 to gain a piece of the lead.
Keoninh, who missed the cut last week, also rebounded from a bogey mishap on the first hole with five birdies in a nine-hole stretch from No. 5 in a round he described as lucky to force a four-way tie for the lead in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“I need to focus on one shot every time, The course is really long and tough,” said Keoninh, whose best PGTA finish is tied at 22nd in the Aboitiz Invitational. “I just hope to continue what I’ve started and hope to be lucky again.”
Jay Bayron, also out to snap a long title spell, used a late charge of three birdies in the last seven holes to join Lam, O’Toole, Paez, Sumcad and Van der Valk at fifth while Carlos missed joining the three-under group with a bogey on the last hole and fellow young turk Jahns battling with three birdies at the back against a bogey on No. 6.
But expect Ababa, who posted a record seven-shot romp at Eagle Ridge, and Mondilla, the reigning PGT Order of Merit winner, along with Lascuña, Menor and Quiban to mount a fightback in the next three days in their bid to become the first two-leg winner of the rich circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.
Other 71 scorers were Korean Park Jun Sung and American Josh Salah, while Bibat tied Lascuña at 17th and 11 others joined Quiban and Menor at 19th, including Aussie Rick Coleman, Rico Depilo, Omar Dungca, Randy Garalde, Zanieboy Gialon, Charles Hong, Jordan Irawan of Indonesia, Jet Mathay, Frankie Miñoza and former Phl Open champion Gerald Rosales.