Frankie Miñoza turned his thrilling backside shootout with Angelo Que into a battle of nerves at the front as he survived a shaky windup to set a new course record of eight-under 64 and pull away by four in the P1 million ICTSI Pueblo de Oro Championship at the Pueblo de Oro layout in Cagayan de Pro on Thursday.
It was another vintage show by Miñoza, who had seemed to have rediscovered his hunger for title after winning The Country Club Invitational last February and just last week the ICTSI Del Monte Championship where he closed out with a nine-under 63 to win by five.
With a 13-under 131 aggregate, the 53-year-old two-time Philippine Open champion and for a long time the face of Philippine golf stood four shots clear of Que, who engaged Miñoza in a torrid shooting in separate flights at the back for a pair of 29s only to lose steam at the front with a 37. Que settled for an eagle-spiked 66 and a 135.
“Maganda lang ang palo at putting,” said the soft-spoken Minoza, who gunned down two eagles, the last on No. 7 that cushioned the impact of his bogey-bogey windup. He went straight to the range to polish his swing in anticipation of an explosive final round duel with Que.
Elmer Salvador shot a second straight 68 for a 136 – a solid 36-hole output by any standard – but the former Order of Merit champion still lay five strokes off Minoza, who could’ve posted a bigger margin if not for a three-putt miscue and an errant drive into a stymied lie in the last two holes.
Challenged by Que in a flight ahead at the back where they started, Miñoza answered his rival’s superb performance shot-for-shot, birdie-for-birdie and even eagle-for-eagle, both winding up with a pair of flawless seven-under 29s.
But as Que slowed down with a two bogey-one birdie windup at the front, Miñoza held sway, hitting two more birdies and an eagle against a bogey after seven holes although he missed turning in a 10-under card with bogeys in the last two holes.
“It got windy lang for me at the front,” rued Que, who flashed superb shotmaking and iron play at the back to produce five birdies inside four feet and an eagle he banged in some 15 feet off the 15th green.
Although he said later he had no idea of Que’s birdie-spree ahead of him, Miñoza eerily made it look like a shootout between two of the tour’s revered players, birdying all four holes that Que birdied (Nos. 12, 14, 16 and 18).
“Ganun ba? I really had no idea of what Angel was doing. I just played my game and tried to make the most out of it,” said Miñoza.
Although Que eagled the par-5 15th, Miñoza answered with his own version of an eagle on the par-5 17th as both made the backnine turn at 29.
Both, however, sputtered a bit at the front with Que finishing with a 37 and Miñoza nearly blowing a sizzling round with back-to-back bogeys.
Despite his shaky finish, Miñoza still took a big lead into the last 18 holes of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Nike Golf, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, Mizuno, Titleist, Srixon, Foot Joy, Callaway, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers, Cleveland Golf and Sharp.
Rufino Bayron carded a 69 for fourth at 137, erstwhile co-leader Joenard Rates settled for a 71 for fifth at 138 and Jay Bayron, Benjie Magada and Orland Sumcad shared sixth place at 139.
Jay Bayron, winner at ICTSI John Hay, and Magada both shot 70s while Sumcad fired the day’s other 64 that erased the previous mark of 65 posted by Charles Hong in winning this ICTSI-sponsored event last year.
Hong made a 69 to move up to ninth at 140 while Tony Lascuna, who had a solid 68 in the first round, struggled with a 73 and dropped to 10th with Marvin Dumandan, who had a 70 for 141.