Inaugural champion Jay Bayron took charge in a punishing day at Wack Wack East, leaning on a solid start and a big rebound at the finish to shoot a five-under 67 and seize a two-stroke lead over Marvin Dumandand and American Nicolas Paez at the start of the Aboitiz Invitational on Wednesday.
Bayron rattled off five birdies in the first eight holes, stumbled with two bogeys in the next six but hit two late birdies, including a curling 50-footer on No. 16, to complete a 32-35 card for the soft-spoken Davaeoño shotmaker, who emerged the top scorer from among the afternoon starters in the 126-player field of the $100,000 event.
Dumandan and Paez carded identical 69s, Singaporean Johnson Poh, Blake Snyder of the US and local bets Arnold Villacencio and Jobim Carlos turned in identical 70s and Zanieboy Gialon and Jonathan Woo of Singapore both shot 71s as the rest struggled on the tight, hazard-laden layout which yielded just 10 under-par scores in a surprise-filled day.
But Bayron, who lost to American Berry Henson by one in the 2011 Philippine Open here, made it look easy in the early going, scoring back-to-back birdies on Nos. 2 and 5 then drilling in a birdie from pin-high length off a solid 6-iron tee-shot on the tough par-3 No. 8, which claimed a number of bogeys, double-bogeys and even sixes.
“I played it shot by shot and tried to feel my way around the course. But I went for birdies on some holes and was lucky to make some of them,” said Bayron, who negated his bogeys on Nos. 10 and 12 with back-to-back birdies from No. 15 despite windy condition late afternoon.
The day’s surprise was the early surge of a slew of unfancied local aces, led by Dumandan, who has never figured after 10 legs of this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour but put himself in early contention in the 72-hole championship, sponsored by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. and backed by ICTSI, serving as the 18th leg of the Asian Development Tour.
Dumandan, who tied for 20th and placed 33rd in the PGT’s last two legs in Bacolod last month, birdied three of the first seven holes to get going then mixed two birdies against two bogeys the rest of the way to share second at 69.
Paez bounced back from a bogey mishap on No. 10 with five birdies in an 11-hole stretch from No. 13 but missed grabbing solo second with a bogey on the sixth.
Carlos, whose also took a downswing after losing in a playoff to Clyde Mondilla at Eastridge May, hit three birdies to negate his lone bogey on No. 3 while Villacencio, seeking to snap out of two-year title spell, rebounded strong in a frontside finish that saw him birdie Nos. 1, 2 and 9 to gain a share of fourth.
Snyder birdied three of the last six holes at the back to join the two-under par scores, who also included Poh, who stumbled with three bogeys but fired four birdies, including on the closing par-4 ninth.
Gialon, who also won last in 2014 at the rain-shortened Royal Northwoods Championship, blew a two-under card at the back where he teed off, fumbling with three bogeys against two more birdies to tie Woo, who shot three birdies against two bogeys, at eighth.
Elmer Salvador, a two-time champion of this event co-organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion, came charging back at the front, closing out with 32 to negate a 40 start for even par 72 for joint 10th with Thai Kevin Techakanokboon, Micah Shin, Aussie Peter Stojanovski, Thais Suradit Yongcharoenchai, Rattanon Wannasrichan and Pijit Petchkasem, Indonesian George Gandranata and Swede Malcolm Kokocinski.
Meanwhile, Mondilla showed up ADT Order of Merit No. 1 Pavit Tangkamolprasert of Thailand and No. 2 Johannes Veerman of the US, carding a 73 marred by a late foldup. But the young Del Monte shotmaker still outplayed his more fancied rivals as Veerman sputtered early with four bogeys in a birdie-less backside stint and wound up with a 75 and Tangkamolprasert squandering a 35 start at the back with a 42, marred by three bogeys and a triple-bogey 6 on No. 8 for a 77.
Mondilla actually also made a 6 on the elevated No. 8 and bogeyed the last but the Filipino, winner of two legs on the PGT, had built enough cushion of five birdies against two early bogeys to save a 73 in a tie with amateur Gen Nagai, Rene Menor, Justin Quiban, Aussie David Gleeson, Indonesian Rory Hie, Thai Tirawat Kaewsiribandit and Dodge Kemmer of the US.