Guido Van der Valk humbled local ace Tony Lascuña in their frontside duel then bucked a shaky windup to shoot a 71 and seize a three-stroke lead, moving in the threshold of a breakthrough victory in the ICTSI Manila Masters in Binangonan, Rizal on Friday.
The Manila-based Dutch ace, a perennial contender but never a winner on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, sustained his bogey-free 69 at the Eastridge Golf Club Thursday with three birdies in the first nine holes, quickly turning a two-shot deficit into a four-stroke lead as Lascuña, hounded by poor putting, faltered with a 39.
But Van der Valk ended a solid run with bogeys on the two par-3s at back, finishing with a 38 and a 71 that however proved enough to net him a three-shot with a four-under 212 aggregate as Lascuña skied to a 76 and slid to joint second with a charging Jay Bayron, who also fired an eagle-spiked 71, at 215.
“I played pretty well. My putting, irons and short game were simply good,” said the Lelystad, Amsterdam native who has made the country his home the last 13 years with a Filipina wife.
Nicolas Paez, the third player in the featured flight, also groped for an 83 and tumbled from joint third to 33rd at 225.
Despite falling off the lead and trailing by three, the 47-year-old Lascuña, who had three three-putts and muffed four birdie chances, remains confident of his title bid in the P3 million event sponsored by ICTSI.
“He should watch out for me. He’ll crack up the way he did when I beat him (Van der Valk) in a playoff last year,” said Lascuña, who edged the 37-year-old Dutch and the young Micah Shin in a playoff to rule the Bacolod stop, one of his five-leg victories last year.
“We’ll see. It depends on the wind,” said Van der Valk.
Three players also made their charge in the scorching pivotal round with American Paul Harris carding the day’s best 69, Jhonnel Ababa firing a 70 and Shin turning in a 71 for even 216s, four shots adrift.
The rest, however, stood six shots or more behind and will need to shoot in the low 60s and hope for the frontrunners’ meltdown to gain a shot at the top P550,000 purse in the second leg of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Keanu Jahns and John Michael O’Toole of the US both shot 70s while Rene Menor groped for a 74 and American Josh Salah stumbled with a 75 for 218s while Anthony Fernando came up with a 70, Ferdie Aunzo and Chris delos Santos both carded 73s and Mhark Fernando made a 75 for 219s.
Justin Quiban, who shared third with Paez halfway through the event backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT, also fumbled with a 79 and bowed out of the title race with a 221.
Van der Valk, who placed seventh in last year’s Order of Merit, appeared headed to duplicating his solid second round effort as he birdied Nos. 3, 6 and 7 to wrest control as Lascuña staggered with a bogey-bogey start, went on a birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey roll from No. 4 then closed out the frontside with another bogey for that 39.
But Van der Valk slowed down at the tougher backside, missing the two par-3s for bogeys and Lascuña failed to capitalize with flubbed birdie putts inside six feet and another bogey on No. 14.
Two flights ahead, Bayron, back-to-back winner of Aboitiz and Riviera last year, battled from five down to pull within three off Van der Valk with an eagle and two birdies against a bogey at the front. But like the new leader and the erstwhile frontrunner, he wavered at the back, making four bogeys against two birdies for that 71.