Frankie Miñoza proved he still has what it takes to contend, firing a seven-under 63 to force a three-way tie for the lead with an equally surging Miguel Tabuena and steady Guido Van der Valk in an action-packed third round of the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic headed for a classic finish at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club in Bacolod on Friday.
Miñoza, who missed the cut in his last Philippine Golf Tour stint at Eagle Ridge last month, flashed superb iron play and putting and hit eight birdies in benign conditions, including four straight from No. 4, as the veteran campaigner sizzled with a 30-33 to rally from way behind to gain a crack at the crown in a long while.
Van der Valk, out to redeem himself from a loss in a three-man playoff at Binitin last week won by Tony Lascuña, missed seizing the solo lead with a bogey on No. 15 but the veteran Dutch shotmaker still stayed on track for a breakthrough victory with a four-under 66.
Tabuena, back in the local hunt after a two-month stint abroad, negated a two-bogey mishap with seven birdies, including two late feats that netted him a 65 and a crack at the second crown after romping of the Anvaya Invitational crown last February.
With the three tied for the lead at 12-under 198, two laying just a stroke behind and another a shot farther back, the final round of the P1.5 million event sponsored by ICTSI headed for a classic, thrilling finish today.
Joenard Rates, seeking to snap a four-year title spell, missed joining the leaders with a bogey on the par-5 18th but the diminutive shotmaker still got into the mix with a 64 for a 199 in a tie with American Micah Shin, the other playoff loser at Binitin also raring to score his maiden win on the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. Shin carded a 66.
Halfway leader Clyde Mondilla, whose back-to-back 65s sparked hopes for a third victory for the Del Monte star, found the going tougher yesterday, fumbling with a double bogey and three bogeys in the first 10 holes to tumble down the leaderboard. He did come up with back-to-back birdies from No. 12 but flubbed a couple of birdie putts and limped with a 73 and slid to joint eighth at 203 with Arnold Villacencio, who also rallied with a 64.
Jay Bayron gunned down four birdies against two bogeys at the front but settled for pars at the back to turn in a two-under 68 but still remained in the hunt for the top P270,000 purse at 200, just two strokes adrift.
Orlan Sumcad made a 67 for solo seventh at 202.