Micah Shin showed up veteran rivals Jay Bayron and Rey Bayron with a near-flawless game that produced a tournament-best seven-under 65, putting the young Korean-American four shots clear off erstwhile leader Tony Lascuña after three rounds of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open in Tarlac on Friday.
The Davao-based shotmaker, whose lean frame belies his power off the tee, rattled off eight birdies in second-to-last flight in another fine day at the Luisita Golf and Country Club, including four straight from No. 2 where he quickly erased Lascuña’s overnight one-shot lead. He then held sway at the back to string a 31-34 card for a four-shot cushion at 12-under 204 heading to the final round of the P2.5 million event sponsored by ICTSI.
“I played well. Everything’s in place, especially my putting,” said Shin, who sparked his birdie-spree with a 19-footer on the par-3 second and went on to gun down seven more against a missed green bogey on the par-5 12th.
The 19-year-old ace has put in strong starts in recent legs of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. only to crumble at the finish, keeping him winless until he put together one near-perfect round under preferred lies rule to get a clear shot at a first-ever championship.
“I have to maintain this kind of game in the final round,” said Shin, who tied for fourth at Splendido Classic where he slugged it out and lost to Lascuña in the final round. He also shared third place at ICTSI Riviera Classic won by Bayron in a playoff with Clyde Mondilla and tied for ninth at Aboitiz Invitational, also ruled by Bayron.
Lascuña didn’t fare bad either, besting flightmates Ferdie Aunzo and Dutch Guido Van der Valk with a second straight 70 but his “drive for five” hit a snag in the face of Shin’s fiery round as the four-leg winner and Order of Merit leader dropped to second at 208.
“My game is quite okay but I could’ve scored better if not for my missed putts, including four that lipped out,” said Lascuña, who hit just three birdies against a bogey on the seventh. “I need to attack tomorrow (today) and shoot a seven-under to win.”
Mondilla, meanwhile, worked his way up to clinch a spot in today’s championship flight, carding a 68 and putting himself in contention for a fourth leg win with a 209 while Marvin Dumandan also struck back with a 68 for a 210.
Cassius Casas also bounced back from a pair of 72s with a five-under 67 and Elmer Salvador atoned for his second round 77 with a 66 as they tied Bayron, who made a 71, at 211, seven strokes off the pace.
But focus will be on Shin, who birdied No. 8 to go five-under against Lascuña’s 35 to wrest contol. He sustained his charge at the back with birdies on Nos. 11, 14 and 15 inside six feet against a bogey on No. 12 of the par-72 layout hosting an ICTSI-sponsored leg for the second time after the Luisita Championship won by Lascuña last April.
“We’re happy to host two tournaments every year in partnership with ICTSI, PGTI and Central Azucarera de Tarlac,” said Jeric Hechanova, general manager of the club listed as one of the best 100 golf courses outside of the US by Golf Digest. “It’s a rare opportunity to get the pros play together in a tournament like this.”
He added that the club has provided the players free air-conditioned quarters for their comfort plus free meals, making them feel at home.
Dutch Guido Van der Valk hobbled with a 73 and dropped to eighth at 212 while Justin Quiban pooled a 213 after a 70 and Aunzo skied to a 75 to slip to joint 10th with Aussie Peter Stojanovski and Zanieboy Gialon, who fired identical 71s in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp, Champion, Ping and Yamaha.