South African Mathiam Keyser and John Catlin of the US produced identical six-under 66s in varying fashions as they led the assault of the foreign bets against the local aces in the $60,000 ICTSI Luisita Championship at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in tarlac on Wednesday.
Keyser, 30, rode on an explosive eagle-spiked frontside charge to seize control but wavered at the finish for a 31-35 card while Catlin charged back from a bogey mishap on No. 3 with a cluster of birdies – seven, including two of the last three as they wrested a one-stroke lead over Americans Brett Munson and John Michael O’Toole, who both turned in a 67.
“Overall, I played pretty well. Everything is okay – putting, irons and short game were simply good. I hope to keep it going until the last round,” said Keyser, a veteran of the Asian Tour who hit a solid 4-iron second shot from 236 yards then knocked in the eagle from 15 feet on the par-5 No. 9.
Korean-American Micah Shin, who won the CAT (Central Azucarera de Tarlac) Open here last September, also leaned on a superb 33 start to fire a 69 for solo fifth in the 72-hole championship that features five Philippine Open champions.
Tony Lascuña, who snapped a long title spell at Luisita with a six-shot romp over Korean Park Jun Hyeok last year, didn’t fare bad with a 70 but the reigning Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit winner rued a late-hole bogey on the treacherous par-3 17th that dropped him to a share of sixth with six others.
They included compatriot Ferdie Aunzo and Jobim Carlos and another slew of foreign players who crowded the Top 10 in the early going of the event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., led by Australians David Gleeson and Nathan Park, and Lexus Keoninh and Nicolas Paez of the US.
Bucking a late start, tight fairways and the scorching heat, Keyser came through with one solid shot after the other then flashed awesome putting touch to produced five birdies with an eagle to boot after 12 holes. But he fumbled with a bogey on No. 14, regained the stroke on the par-5 16th only to drop another shot on No. 17.
Despite his shaky finish, the Bangkok-based Keyser, who placed tied at 48th in the recent Solaire Philippine Open at The Country Club won by Englishman Steve Lewton, put himself on track for a crack at the top $10,500 purse in the event backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.
Clyde Mondilla, second to Lascuña in last year’s OOM but who is out to check an early slide in the circuit, shot a 71 to join Rufino Bayron, Albin Engino, Jelbert Gamolo, James Lam, Mars Pucay, former PH Open champ Gerald Rosales and Elmer Salvador, along with Americans James Bowen and Sam Chien and Japanese Toru Nakajima and Hosho Takahashi and Korean Kim Sung Wook at 13th while nine others turned in even-par outputs led by Jhonnel Ababa, Ira Alido, Orlan Sumcad and American Paul Harris. But they stood six strokes off Keyser and Catlin in the tournament where the top 50 plus after 36 holes will advance to the final two days.
Lewton, who nipped Johannes Veerman of the US in the playoff to snare the PH Open title, blew a two-under card with three bogeys in the last four holes and ended up with a 73 for joint 35th 11 others.
They included Miguel Tabuena, a two-time winner at Luisita, including the Philippine Open in 2015 who withdrew with a bad back in the second round here last year, shot two birdies but made a triple-bogey 8 on No. 16 for a 36-37, while Cassius Casas, another former Phl Open winner at Wack Wack, struggled with a 74.
In danger of missing the cut in the event, backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT, are Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who groped for a 76, and two-time PH Open winner Frankie Miñoza, who limped with a 77, along with Mhark Fernando, who also struggled with a five-over card.