Richard Sinfuego bucked an early bogey mishap at the back with a cluster of birdies, rebounding with a five-under 67 to snatch a one-stroke lead over Elmer Salvador and in-form Michael Bibat at the start of the ICTSI Del Monte Championship at Del Monte Golf Club in Bukidnon on Wednesday.
In an overcast day when birdies and eagles—even a hole-in-one—rained on the par-72 layout, Sinfuego took charge despite a shaky start at the back, closing out his backside stint with three birdies in the last five holes to negate a bogey on No. 12.
He parred the first four holes at the front then again birdied three of the last five to complete a 33-34 round, barely going 2-up after missing an eagle putt from the fringe on the par-5 ninth.
“I thought it was going in, sadly it didn’t,” said the 42-year-old Sinfuego, seeking his first win since winning a back-to-back at Orchards and Southwoods nine years ago, in Filipino.
Still, it was enough to put him on a rare spot after a so-so joint 25th finish at Palos Verdes last week although a host of others are in hot pursuit, ensuring a fierce battle for top honors in this sixth leg of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
Salvador also charged back at the front with four birdies against a bogey for a 33 and a 68, catching Bibat at second after last week’s ICTSI Palos Verdes Classic winner upstaged Miguel Tabuena and Jay Bayron in the featured flight of leg winners after five legs of this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
Bayron, who ruled the ICTSI John Hay leg, and Tabuena, runaway winner at ICTSI Sherwood, fumbled with 73 and 74, respectively, when majority of the starting 92-player field.
Bibat bucked back pains to fire a 35-33 round, spiked by an eagle on No. 14.
“I felt it the whole day but my chiropractor told me to do my routine exercises and ice it a bit. I hope it gets better in the next two days,” said the 28-year-old Bibat.
Filipino-Chinese James Ryan Lam came through with a stirring eagle-blast from the left bunker on No. 9 for a 68 as he joined a bunch of three-under par scorers who included local bet Jovannie Abaño, Anthony Fernnado, Charles Hong, Jett Plete and fancied Tony Lascuña.
“I’ll just try to hit as best as I could and the hit the fairways and greens as much as a I can for me to have a chance of winning here,” said Lam, seeking his first title on the ICTSI-sponsored tour after coming close to winning in Rancho Palos Verdes won by buddy Carl Santos-Ocampo last year.
Plete, meanwhile, grabbed the spotlight after scoring a hole-in-one on the 165-yard No. 16.
“It’s a memorable moment for me,” said the 35-year-old Plete, a club pro here who also hit an ace at Pueblo de Oro in Cagayan de Oro City three years ago.
Lascuna, who dominated the ICTSI Calatagan leg and finished joint second with Salvador last week, missed grabbing a share of the lead with muffed putts from close range on Nos. 14 and 15 and a missed-green bogey on No. 17.
“I lost my cool after that miss on No. 14 because I was counting on finishing with a six-under,” said Lascuna.
Frankie Miñoza, fancied to reign on his home course, stayed in contention by birdying two of the last five holes as he led the two-under 70 group that includes brother Peter Miñoza, Orlan Sumcad, Arnold Villacencio, Peter Villaber and Korean Micah Shin.
Mars Pucay carded a 71 to tie Chris delos Santos, Jun Rates and Dutch Guido Van der Valk at 16th while Clyde Mondilla, another local bet, matched par for joint 20th with Jessie Balasabas, Ruben Sasutil, Ramil Bisera and amateur Andres Saldaña.