Canadian Lindsay Renolds, needing no less than a victory to salvage an Asian Tour card next year, launched his title bid in grand fashion – a bogey-free six-under 66 that put him one stroke ahead of a charging Miguel Tabuena, Korean rising star Jeunghun Wang and two others at the start of the weather-shortened Philippine Open presented by ICTSI in Tarlac on Friday.
Despite playing longer than its 7,045-yardage, the Luisita Golf and Country Club layout took a severe beating from the men of the tour under the lift, clean and place rule with 52 breaking par and 15 others turning in even par cards in the $300,000 event serving as the final leg of this year’s Asian Tour.
The Phuket-based Canadian gunned down three birdies at the back where he teed off then added three more birdies at the front for a 33-33 he spiked with three scrambling pars on Nos. 1, 2 and 6.
Tabuena shrugged off an opening bogey mishap on No. 1 with a cluster of birdies – six in a 12-hole stretch from No. 5 – and put himself in early contention for the championship with a 35-32 card in the event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and sanctioned by the National Golf Association of the Philippines.
The 21-year-old local circuit’s reigning Order of Merit winner preserved his spot at joint second by scrambling for pars in the last two holes.
“I can’t complain with my score considering my condition. I’m feeling much better which is good. I was very lucky play was called off yesterday because I got an extra rest day. I made most out of it,” said Tabuena. “I left a couple out of birdie putts so hopefully I can hole more putts tomorrow (today).”
Wang, who will represent Team Asia in the EurAsia Cup next year, also shot six birdies but had one bogey on the par-5 No. 12 to settle for a tie with Tabuena, Chinnarat Phadung¬sil of Thailand and five-time Asian Tour winner Gaganjeet Bhullar of India.
Juvic Pagunsan also lived up to the hype as the 2011 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner fired a four-under 68 in his very first stint at Luisita to join the early charge of the local aces in the 54-hole event.
Like Tabuena, Pagunsan kicked off his bid with a bogey on No. 10 but the smooth-swinging shotmaker, who dominated the Asian Development Tour field to win the Aboitiz Invitational at Manila Southwoods by eight last August, also bounced back with three straight bogeys from No. 12, added another on No. 16 before closing out with back-to-back birdies at the front to negate a bogey-birdie-bogey roll from No. 3.
Johnrey Pactolerin, nephew of former PH Open champion and many-time PH Masters winner Robert Pactolerin, charged back with four birdies at the back to join Pagunsan at sixth along with Korean Giwhan Kim, former champion Mardan Mamat of Singapore and Englishman Simon Griffiths.
Seven players, including Aussie Scott Barr, Korean Seukhyun Baek and Ireland’s Niall Turner, fired three-under 69s while Jhonnel Ababa, Clyde Mondilla and Nilo Salahog carded identical 70s to lead 18 others at joint 18th and Aussie Marcus Both, who won by two at Wack Wack last year, struggled with an even par 72 for joint 51st.
Other Filipinos in early contention are Charles Hong, a former winner here, who shot a 71; Orlan Sumcad, Tony Lascuña, Cassius Casas, Artemio Murakami and Keanu Jahns matched par 72s; while Michael Bibat, Arnold Villacencio, Elmer Salvador, Randy Garalde, Michael Alejan¬dro and Frankie Minoza, who blew a two-under card with three straight bogeys from No. 15, turned in similar 73s.