Toru Nakajima kept a two-stroke lead despite a final-hole bogey and a two-over 74 as the rest of his pursuers hobbled with similar over-par scores in punishing condition in the third round of the P2.5 million ICTSI Wack Wack Championship at Wack Wack’s East Course on Friday.
So tough was the condition that Nakajima still clung on to the lead despite finishing without a birdie, moving the Japanese within 18 holes away from clinching the top P450,000 with a two-under 214 total and becoming the first foreign player to win on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“Tough, really tough day,” said Nakajima, who dumped his approach shot on the par-4 18th into the greenside bunker and failed to get up-and-down. It was his second bogey in the day when bogeys and pars became the norm and birdies an exception.
Cassius Casas also holed out with a bogey for a 72 and stood just two shots off at 216 while Jay Bayron birdied the 18th for a 73 and a 217 as the two Davaoeno aces join Nakajima in today’s final flight, each looking for no less than a victory in this final leg of the 15-stage circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
“I need to shoot two- or three-under to get a chance at the crown,” said Casas, trying to close out the season with back-to-back victories after snapping a three-year title slump at ICTSI Canlubang recently.
He actually looked headed for a big finish when he birdied Nos. 13 and 16 but hardly learned from a disastrous double-bogey mistake on the 18th in the second round Thursday.
Still, his even par total kept him within striking distance of the three-day leader while Bayron, who turned in one of the six one-under 35s, reeled back with three straight bogeys from No. 12, needing to birdie the 18th to save a 73.
“There’s still a chance. I hope to catch him [Nakajima] tomorrow [today],” said Bayron, who nipped Miguel Tabuena in a playoff to cop the ICTSI John Hay title. “We’ll see how he [Nakajima] plays with us.”
Korean Micah Shin also holed out with a birdie to card a 74 and join Bayron at third while ICTSI Palos Verdes leg winner Michael Bibat stood at 218 after a 74.
Mars Pucay, who had an impressive 70 Wednesday but hobbled with a 77 midway through the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., shot a 72 to for a five-way at sixth with Johnnel Ababa and Elmer Saban, who also matched par 72, and ICTSI Riviera Classic winner Mhark Fernando and Benjie Magada, who carded identical 74s.
Elmer Salvador failed to make his move in the pivotal round and fell behind by six at 220 after a 77 while Gerald Rosales blew a 35 start with a 38 for a 73 and a 221.