Rufino Bayron blew what had been a solid eagle-spiked round with a double-bogey mishap on the final hole, barely wresting a one-stroke lead over obscure Rolando Marabe with a five-under 67 at the start of the P3.5 million ICTSI Tournament Players’ Championship at the Southlinks Golf Club in Las Piñas on Tuesday.
Just when he thought he had the relatively short course tamed with his precision game and superb putting, Bayron dropped two strokes on the par-5 18th on an errant drive and a poor second shot, settling for a 34-33 card and keeping him from pulling away from the field on a course where terrors lurk on most holes.
“Despite my finish, I’m okay with my score. You just can’t avoid falling into trouble on this course,” said Bayron, seeking to snap a five-month spell after winning the rich ICTSI Orchard Championship of the Asian Development Tour last June.
But Marabe, who never figured in the title race in all 15 legs of the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc, showed how to tackle a course like Southlinks, fashioning out the only bogey-free round in a challenging day—a 68 for solo second.
The Marapara, Bacolod native, still in search of his first pro win since 1997 in a career interrupted by a three-year stay in the US, birdied all but one of the par 3s from close range and added another one on No. 14. He only missed the green twice but drilled in a pair of six-footers on Nos. 9 and 11 to preserve a spotless 34-34 card.
Clyde Mondilla, coming off a breakthrough win at ICTSI Canlubang last month, also stumbled with a double-bogey on the par-5 14th and made a bogey on the tough final hole. But the young Del Monte bet still came through with a 69 on seven birdies to join James Ryan Lam (33-36), John Kier Abdon (34-35) and another unheralded bet Rico Depilo (35-34) at third.
Mhark Fernando and Edward Reyes both shot 70s while ICTSI John Hay winner Jun Rates carded a 71 for joint ninth with Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who blew an impressive 33 start at the back with a double-bogey marred 38 at the front.
Bayron, who had three playoff losses and a big final round meltdown at ICTSI Splendido this year before beating Japanese Tomokazu Yoshinaga by four at Orchard and pocketed the top P450,000 purse, made a tap-in birdie on No. 1 then rolled in a 12-footer on the next to launch his bid in the final leg of this year’s circuit backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports Phils. Inc., Srixon, Callaway, Mizuno, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp, KZG and Rudy Project. After a slew of pars, he rattled off two straight birdies from No. 12 then inside seven feet then knocked down a 56-yard eagle on No. 14 and adding another birdie on the 16th to go seven-under.
But he hit a wayward shot off the tee on the 18th, hacked another poor shot to get out of a thick rough and needed five shots to reach the green. Still, his 67 proved enough to net him the lead and record the best score so far on the par-72 layout hosting an event of this magnitude for the first time.
Gerald Rosales, Elmer Saban and Ferdie Aunzo matched par 72s while Michael Bibat, Robert Pactolerin, Jomar Pepito, Mars Pucay, Korean Gyuha Park and Japanese back-to-back low amateur Yuto Katsuragawa turned in identical 73s.
Casas, a pre-tournament favorite in the absence of big guns Tony Lascuna, Miguel Tabuena, Elmer Salvador and Jay Bayron, who all set to see action on the Asian Tour leg in Chiangmai, Thailand tomorrow, birdied No. 11 but struggled the rest of the way on a tough course that yielded just 10 under-par scores. He holed out with a triple-bogey seven on No, 13 and hobbled with a two-over 74 for a share of 20th with Richard Sinfuego, Benjie Magada, Paul Echavez and Dante Becierra.