Mhark Fernando kept a bogey-free run and moved clear off Thail Natthapong Niyomchon and Taichi Nabetani of Japan with a 67 but found a new co-leader in American John Jackson, who charged home with a 64 halfway through the ICTSI Manila Southwoods Championship ADT at the Legends course in Carmona, Cavite on Thursday.
Fernando slowed down a bit despite an early start after firing a six-under 65 in tough conditions late Wednesday but remained on target all day, hitting four birdies from close range to stay at joint lead at 10-under 132, this time with Jackson, two strokes ahead of Deng Shan Koh of Singapore.
The former national champion, seeking to snap a long title spell, also emerged the lone Filipino in the Top 9 as the rest of the local bets failed to keep up with the foreign aces’ torrid shooting.
Miguel Tabuena did fight back with a 66 after a so-so 72 but the reigning Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion remained six strokes behind at 138 while Tony Lascuna, who could only match par 71 in the first round, continued to grope for his putting stroke and stayed at even par after six holes.
But Fernando proved he’s up to the task, churning out a flawless round for the second straight day in a surprising rebound from a missed cut at the ICTSI Luisita Championship two weeks ago and a mediocre joint 22nd finish at Anvaya Cove Invitational last February.
Fernando, however, braces for a tougher challenge in the final 36 holes, starting with today’s pivotal round where he will slug it out with Jackson, who birdied the last four holes to get back into contention for the top $10,500 purse in the $60,000 championship sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and co-sanctioned by the ADT and PGT.
In joint 14th with an opening 68, Jackson worked his way up after a birdie-bogey stint from No. 11, rattling off three straight birdies from No. 13 then closed out with the four-birdie binge at the front to fire the first of two seven-under cards at the bunker-riddled layout.
Koh produced the other 64 in another day of low scoring, ramming in eight birdies to negate a lone bogey on the par-3 16 to move to solo third at 134 while Thais Pannakorn Uthaipas and Suradit Yongcharoenchai pooled identical 135s after a 69 and 68, respectively.
Zanieboy Gialon totes a two-under card after six holes for a running six-under total and Mars Pucay also hit two birdies after six holes for a five-under aggregate as they poise to join Fernando in the hunt heading to the last 36 holes of the first of two Asian Development Tour events backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Sharp, Summit, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade and Champion.
The only other local bet tipped to move up the ranking is rookie pro Jobim Carlos, who opened with a 67 and stayed even par after six holes at the back as brothers Rufino and Jay Bayron finished their round with 69 and 70, respectively, for 140.
Pijit Petchkasem is also expected to close in on the joint leaders as the Thai ace carried a three-under card with nine holes to play and a running eight-under total while Baxter Reeves, also of the US, has a four-under card at the turn for a seven-under aggregate in a provisional tie with Nabetani (one-under after six holes) and Malaysian Gavin Green (two under after six holes).