Justin Quiban, due for a big win after a string of impressive finishes, put himself in contention again, using a hot putter to fire a six-under 66 and grab a one-stroke lead over Clyde Mondilla and Joenard Rates halfway through the CAT (Central Azucarera de Tarlac) Open at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac on Thursday.
Quiban birdied the treacherous par-3 17th from 35 feet out, capping a pair of 33s fashioned out in ideal condition as erstwhile frontrunner Andrew Campbell (74) of Australia and Swede Oskar Arvidsson (76) fumbled despite the absence of the wind and tumbled down the leaderboard.
The 21-year-old Quiban, who figured in a final round duel in last two major tournaments at Southwoods and Wack Wack, also knocked down a couple of birdie putts from difficult lies and finished with eight to negate his double-bogey mishap on the par-4 No. 14.
“My putts on the sixth and seven were both from difficult downhill lies but I managed to get a nice read and made them,” said Quiban, who took charge of the elite field with an eight-under 136.
But lurking behind at 137 is the fancied Mondilla, who blitzed his way to joint second with a 67, sparked by a three-birdie binge from No. 3, with the unheralded Rates also pooling a seven-under total with his own version of 33-34 under preferred lies rule.
Mondilla actually tied Quiban at eight-under with a birdie on No. 15 but this year’s Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit winner three-putted No. 16, flubbing a five-footer for par.
“I had a long first putt (40 feet) and pushed it too hard and went past the cup,” said Mondilla, who nailed four PGT victories this year, including the Players Championship at Summit Golf last September.
Rates, who last won in Baguio in 2014, also sizzled with seven birdies against two bogeys and hoped to sustain his charge in the last 36 holes to gain a crack at the top $17,500 purse in the event sponsored by ICTSI.
Jhonnel Ababa also pressed his bid with a 67, spiking his 33-34 card with seven birdies against two bogeys, including a second straight on the 17th, for a 139 in a tie with Campbell, Charles Hong, Englishman Grant Jackson and Matthew Negri of the US.
Campbell, who took control with an impressive 65 on an early start in the first round Wednesday, actually held sway with three birdies in the first seven holes at the back where he started. But he lost his touch and rhythm on his way home, making three bogeys and a double bogey on No. 3 where he had to settle for a punch shot off a bad lie on the fairway bunker. He limped with a 74.
Negri, meanwhile, scored the second hole-in-one in the $100,000 event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., acing the 160-yard No. 13 using a TaylorMade 9-iroin and TaylorMade ball No. 3.
That ace sandwiched a brilliant six-under card in a five-hole stretch from No. 12 and capped a solid 35-30 card for the American with Jackson also turning in a seven-under 65 after rebounding from a bogey-bogey start at the front for the second straight day with nine birdies.
Hong, on the other hand, rode on a four-birdie run in a five-hole stretch from No. 12 and carded a 69, while Singapore’s Choo Tze Huang (70), Kris Etter (71), Elmer Salvador (69), Macedonian Peter Stojanovski (69) and Dutch Guido Van der Valk (69) shared 10th spot with 140s.
Arvidsson, who trailed Campbell by just two with a 67 in the first round, found the going tough this time, hobbling with a 76 marred by three bogeys in the last four holes. He fell to joint 22nd at 143, now seven shots behind Quiban.
Fifth five players made it to the final two days with Jerson Balasabas (72), Thai Parama Chansue (75), Rico Depilo (73), Anthony Fernando (71), Mhark Fernando (74), Rolando Marabe Jr. (78), Aussie Dane Mcardle (74) and Frankie Miñoza (74) all barely making the cut at 147.
Tony Lascuña, who made a 70 Wednesday, birdied the last two holes at the front to save a 71 but dropped five shots behind at 141.
Other backers of the event are Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.