Micah Shin stormed ahead of a crowded leaderboard with a solid five-under 67, wresting a one-stroke lead over four others, including an equally charging Tony Lascuña, in a sweltering day of torrid scoring halfway through the ICTSI Luisita Championship in tarlac on Thursday.
Redisplaying the form that netted him a breakthrough win on the Philippine Golf Tour here last September, the 20-year-old Shin bucked a late tee-off at the backside of the Luisita Golf and Country Club, rattled off three birdies inside 10 feet then closed out with two more at the front to cap a 34-33 round that shoved him past Americans Brett Munson and John Michael O’Toole, South African Mathiam Keyser and Lascuña, with a 136 aggregate.
“I played terribly good. It was an amazing round,” said Shin, the Davao-based Korean-American who spiked his maiden win by beating Lascuña by two for the 2016 CAT (Central Azucarera de Tarlac) Open.
O’Toole earlier put on a blistering windup up at the front and shot a two-under 70 to force three-way tie at 137 with Munson, who also carded a 70 after a 67, and Keyser, who slowed down with a 71 after a 66 with two three-putts, until Shin birdied No. 8 and moved from solo fifth to the top of the heap at eight-under overall.
Not to be outdone, Lascuña, 47, put up a vintage performance, coming through with a pair of three-birdie string on both nines to likewise jump from joint sixth to a share of second, just one behind Shin heading to the last 36 holes of the $60,000 championship sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
He, however, rued his flubbed birdie try from five feet on No. 9.
“I could’ve tied him (Shin). But I rushed things up and didn’t study the line of my putt well,” said Lascuña, the defending champion who actually reeled back with a double-bogey on No. 11 but bounced back with three straight birdies from No. 12 then strung up three straight from No. 3 before capping his superb fightback with another birdie on No. 7 for a closing 32.
Keyser poised to duplicate his 66 Wednesday with another strong start at the back as he birdied Nos. 10 and 12. But he lost his touch and rhythm the rest of the way, stumbling with three bogeys against two birdies as he settled for a 71.
“There’s nothing wrong with my game today (yesterday) except the two holes which I three-putted,” said Keyser.
Rufino Bayron went five-under after 13 holes but bogeyed the next to settle for a 68 but the former PGT leg winner stayed in the hunt at 139, just three behind Shin and in a tie with erstwhile co-leader John Catlin, also of the US, who fumbled with a 73 after a 66.
Jhonnel Ababa also churned out a 68 to move to joint eighth with Finland’s Teemu Putkonen, who rallied with a 67, at 140 while Solaire Philippine Open champion Steve Lewton of England also bounced back into contention with a 68 after a 73, putting him at joint 10th at 141 with Albin Engino and Japanese Toru Nakajima, who fired identical 70s, American Nicolas Paez, who carded a 71 and Japanese Kei Takahashi, who came up with a 69.
Miguel Tabuena rebounded from a so-so 73 with a three-under 69 but the former Philippine Open champion stood five shots behind at joint 15th with Michael Bibat, who rebounded with a 69, Elmer Salvador and Gerald Rosales, who carded second straight 71s, Jobim Carlos, Lexus Keoninh of the US and Aussies Nathan Park and David Gleeson, who matched par 72s, Briton Jake Shepherd and Paul Harris of the US, who both shot 70s.
The rest stood too far behind the frontrunners but with at least nine players in the mix, the chase for the top $10,500 purse in the event backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT is expected to go down to the last shot or putt on Saturday.
Fifty players made the cut at 147 with Dutch Guido Van der Valk barely making it through with a 71 after a 76 in the company of Rico Depilo (70), Marvin Dumandan (74), Paul Echavez (69), Reymon Jaraula (75), Japanese Shotaro Onuki (69), Mars Pucay (76) and Justin Quiban (74).
But two-time Phl Open champ Frankie Miñoza failed to advance despite a 72 as he wound up with a 149, along with Mhark Fernando (71-148), Zanieboy Gialon (73-148), Joenard Rates (73-149) and Robert Pactolerin (76-150).