Obscure Nilo Salahog took charge as the erstwhile frontrunners slowed down in rainy condition, rattling off eight birdies against two bogeys for a 66 and a one-stroke clubhouse lead over Orlan Sumcad midway through the ICTSI Manila Southwoods Championship at the Legends in Carmona, Cavite on Thursday.
Though he only aimed at making the cut at the most in this $60,000 event, Salahog hardly expressed surprise when he found himself on top of the heap with a stirring 14-under 130 total, easily the best 36-hole output in a winless five-year pro career.
“Foremost in mind is to really make the cut,” said Salahog, who tied for 36th in last week’s ICTSI Orchard Championship. “But I’m playing great golf over 36 holes. It was fun golf with those scores.”
He, however, stressed that he does take this tournament seriously, only he’s so delighted sinking birdie putts from close or long range.
“I’m constantly working on my short game, especially putting. Now, I am earning the fruits of my labor,” said Salahog, who bucked tough pin placements at the front that saw him birdie Nos. 1, 3 and 6 to negate a missed green bogey on the fourth then capped his 33 start with a chip-in birdie from 10 yards to grab the clubhouse lead.
For the second straight day, play was suspended for two hours due to lightning but Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia, who rallied late Wednesday to match Tony Lascuña’s course record-equaling 62, groped for form on the greens early, finishing with a two-under 70 and dropping to joint third at 132, two shots behind the new leader.
That also enabled Orlan Sumcad to wrest second spot at 131 after the power-hitting but also winless pro sizzled with seven birdies in the last 14 holes to fire a 65 and move within one heading to the last 36 holes of the fifth leg of this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
But with only a handful of the half of the 110-player starting field still out on the fairway at presstime within reach of the clubhouse leader, led by American Lexus Keoninh and Lascuña, Salahog could keep his spot on top at the end of another long day.
Keoninh is at 12-under overall with a three-under card after nine holes while Lascuña is at 10-under with an even par card after six holes in the event backed by ICTSI, BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.
Meanwhile, Paul Harris, also of the US, followed up his 66 with a 67 to stay three shots off Salahog at 133 while Filipino Charles Hong shot a 69 for a 137 and unheralded Nelson Huerva fought back with a 68 for a 138.
The rest stood too far behind with South African Mathiam Keyser and Englishman Jake Shepherd pooling 139 after a 68 and 70, respectively, Dino Villanueva assembling a 140 after a second 70, American James Bowen at 141 after a 71 in a tie with Japanese Yuta Sudo, who rebounded with a 68, and Korean amateur Kim Joo Young at 142 after another 71.