Jobim Carlos rode on a blistering frontside charge to cushion the impact of a shaky windup, carding a four-under 68 and wresting a one-stroke lead over American Nicolas Paez and Nathan Park of Australia at the start of the ICTSI Philippine Masters at the Villamor Golf Club on Wednesday.
Marvin Dumandan used his power to the hilt and produced six birdies but he stumbled with two bogeys and a double-bogey to settle for 70 and a share of fourth with Fil-German Keanu Jahns and Japanese Genki Okada and Seiji Yanagisawa while Tony Lascuña led eight others with 71 as the field struggled on soggy fairways of the military layout due to overnight rain.
Carlos took advantage of receptive greens and rattled off four straight birdies from No. 6 coming out of a rain delay for a tournament-best opening 30. But the former amateur hotshot wavered at the back and fumbled with bogeys on Nos. 11, 15 and 16 before birdying the par-5 closing hole to save a 38 and a 68.
“I had a fantastic start. I got to spots where I wanted and the greens were soft after the rain in the mid-morning,” said Carlos, back in the groove after his game took a downswing following a playoff loss to Clyde Mondilla at the Manila Masters at Eastridge last year.
The early starters cashed in on good scoring condition but struggled after the downpour with most opting to play cautious to avoid falling into the rough areas of the tree-lined layout with just 15 players turning in under-par scores despite playing preferred lies.
Paez hit an odd eagle on No. 2 then closed out with three birdies in the last six holes to negate a bogey-bogey mishap from No. 12 for that 69, while Park blew a four-under card at the front with bogeys on Nos. 11 and 13 and needed to birdie the 18th to stay in joint second in the P2 million event sponsored by ICTSI.
Paez relied on his caddy’s tactic to gun down that eagle on the par-5 11th, which used to be the course’s No. 2, then fought back from back-to-back bogey mishaps from No. 12 with three birdies in the last six holes at the back, including a 25-footer on the ninth, for a 33-36.
“My caddy actually suggested it,” said Paez of his eagle feat where he used a wedge off the tee to 60 yards, hacked a driver from 278 yards to within eight feet off the cup and made the putt. “I thought it could be done. When I hit it, I knew it would be a great shot.”
Lascuña also found the course tougher, hitting just three birdies while dropping two strokes on the par-4 15th when he drove into the trees, falling to joint eighth at 71 with Elmer Salvador, Paul Echavez, Albin Engino, Francis Morilla and Japanese Joichiro Kawada.
Cassius Casas, the last winner of this fabled event in 2000, had a one birdie-one bogey round to lead the even par scorers, including former champion Robert Pactolerin, Rufino Bayron, Mhark Fernando, Zanieboy Gialon, Rolando Marabe Jr., Joenard Rates, Nilo Salahog, Joseph Suarez, Koean Kang Chon Coo, Eric Gallardo and Dino Villanueva.
Clyde Mondilla, a pre-tournament favorite after beating absentee Miguel Tabuena and Lascuna by one at Southwoods last week, never recovered from a double-bogey start on No. 10 although he came up with back-to-back birdies from No. 14 and bounced back from a bogey mishap on No. 18 with a birdie on No. 2 to join the big group of even par scorers.
Ten others carded 73s, including Paul Harris of the US and Anthony Fernando, while nine more shot 74s, led by rookie pro Ira Alido and Gerald Rosales, all hoping to rebound in the next three days of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.