Micah Shin cashed in on a good streak of form, showing up the elite field with a six-under 65 for a two-stroke lead over Rufino Bayron as the fancied bets wavered at the start of the P2 million ICTSI Riviera Classic at the Langer course in Silang, Cavite.
The reed-thin Shin, who turned in a pair of back-to-back top three finishes in the Philippine Golf Tour’s two legs in Bacolod last month and tied for ninth in last week’s Aboitiz Invitational, put on a superb display of shotmaking and iron play while making the most of the lift, clean and place rule to gun down seven birdies against a bogey that put the Davao-based American to the top of the heap.
“I always dream to become a champion that’s why I always give it my best shot. But on this course, I have to hit the center and try to give myself birdie chances,” said Shin, who did just that on a course that requires accuracy and conservative play on most holes.
Bayron, who has had a number of strong starts marred by poor finishes, was at it again, shooting a 67 behind a sizzling backside start while Clyde Mondilla outgunned Jay Bayron and Tony Lascuña in the featured threesome and shot a 69 for joint third with Alvin Engino and Jobim Carlos.
Mondilla, seeking a rebound from a third round withdrawal at Wack Wack with a back injury, blasted in five birdies in a nine-hole stretch from No. 9, including three straight from No. 15 to go four-under with one hole left.
But the back-to-back winner at Eastridge and Calatagan also failed to join or get past Rufino Bayron, fumbling with a double-bogey on the closing par-4 hole to drop to a share of third.
Carlos, seeking a maiden victory on his rookie season on the tour sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., also stumbled at the finish at the short but tricky, hazard-laden layout, bogeying the last two holes to settle for a 35-34.
Engino actually upstaged Shin in a flight that included Jet Mathay with a solid 32 start at the back but reeled back with three straight bogeys from No. 2, needing to birdie the eighth to salvage a 37 and join Mondilla and Carlos at third.
Behind Engino by one after nine holes, Shin drew level with a birdie on No. 1 then took control as Engino struggled and the young American sustained his form and rammed in back-to-back birdies from No. 4 before parring the rest to wrest control.
Mathay also fired three straight birdies from No. 15 but made two bogeys and a double bogey with his fourth birdie on the eighth putting him alongside Jay Bayron and Jhonnel Ababa at sixth with even par 71s.
Jay Bayron, who beat Malaysian Gavin Green by two to win the Aboitiz crown, came out of a par-game at the front with three birdies against a bogey in the first four holes at the back. But he bogeyed Nos. 14 and 18 to drop six strokes off the pace.