American Nicolas Paez and local ace Jay Bayron stumbled with a pair of 74s in varying fashions but kept their 1-2 posts as erstwhile contender Blake Snyder tumbled down with a 77 in a punishing day in the third round of the Aboitiz Invitational at Wack Wack’s East course on Friday.
Scores soared as the field struggled in the wind and tough pin placements although Paez and Bayron, despite their over-par cards, remained four and three strokes ahead, respectively, of their pursuers heading to the last 18 holes of what loomed to be a two-man shootout for the top $17,500 purse in this $100,000 championship sponsored by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc.
Paez, who parred his last three holes late Thursday to shoot a 68 and grab a one-stroke lead over Bayron and Snyder halfway through the 72-hole championship, recovered from a 38 start and a four-over card after 12 holes with birdies on Nos. 13 and 15 and saved that 74 and a 211.
The 24-year-old American was way off his timing off the tee, either hitting to the left or right at the tight frontside.
“I was struggling a little bit after eight holes. I just told myself to move on and minimize my mistakes. But I finished fairly strong and that’s what mattered,” said Paez.
Bayron, who took charge in the first round with a 67 but dropped to joint second with a 71, regained the lead with a 36 after nine holes but hit back-to-back wild drives to start the backside and made bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11. He fought back with a birdie on No. 13 but dropped another stroke on No. 15 to match Paez’s 74 and remained a stroke adrift at 212.
But it was his spectacular par-save on No. 2, where he hit a wayward drive that landed on the ladies tee, which spiked his round.
“If there was a highlight of the day, that was it,” said Bayron, grinning.
But the inaugural champion in Cebu in 2011 liked his chances for a second Abotiiz win although he stressed the need for solid driving and iron play to foil Paez and the rest of the pursuers.
“I believe I have a perfect chance to win. But I need to play solid off the tee and get my iron game clicking,” said Bayron.
Tony Lascuña continued to make a charge after a disastrous opening 76, following up his second round 70 with a three-under 69 as the former three-time Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit winner moved into joint third with Swede Malcolm Kokocinski, Snyder and an equally charging Gavin Green of Malaysia at 215.
“I think I can still make a charge. I feel good of my chances despite being 4-down,” said Lascuña, who birdied three of the last six holes to put himself in contention in the 18th leg of the ADT and 11th of the PGT backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion.
Kokocinski, who strung up a pair of 72s, gunned down three birdies at the front to move within two off the pace but bogeyed Nos. 11 and 12 and settled for a 71 while Snyder sputtered at the finish, fumbling with four straight bogeys from No. 14 to limp with a 77.
Green, who ruled the Manila Southwoods ADT last April but fell 10 shots off Paez after 36 holes, charged back with four birdies after 11 holes, reeled back with a bogey on the next but birdied the next two to seize solo third at two-under overall.
But the Malaysian ace shotmaker holed out with a bogey on the 18th and settled for a 68, still the day’s best, for joint third.
Thai Poom Saksansin shot a 69 to join compatriot Suradit Yongcharoenchai, who made a 71, and Indonesian George Gandranata and American Micah Shin, who both matched par, and another Thai Rattanon Wannasrichan, who groped for a 73, at 216.
The rest are too far behind although anything can happen at Wack Wack East with Swede Oscar Zetterwall, winner of the Sherwood ADT leg, also last April, and American Dodge Kemmer in joint 12th at 218 with a 71 and 72, respectively, and American Nick Sherwood and two-time champion Elmer Salvador tied at 14th at 219 with 72 and 73, respectively.
Clyde Mondilla made that cut at 151 despite a second 78 but quit due to back injury.