Veteran Arnold Villacencio blitzed the backside with four birdies and sizzled at the finish for a six-under 65 as he wrested a two-shot lead over young Ira Alido at the start of the ICTSI Forest Hills Championship at the Forest Hills Golf and Country Club in Antipolo on Wednesday.
Villacencio, whose game took a downswing after scoring his maiden win at Summit Point in 2014, surprised the field with his hot start then capped his big surge with two birdies in the last four holes to string a 33-32 card and set the pace in a day of changing fortunes despite benign condition at the Nicklaus layout.
“I played a fantastic round. Everything was in place, including my putting,” said Villacencio, who also flashed a near-impeccable short game where he rescued pars in seven times that he went out of regulation to seize control in the P3 million event sponsored by ICTSI.
But he expects the rest to make their move in today’s second round where the top 40 plus ties will advance to the final 36 holes of the tournament staking a whopping P550,000 to the winner on Saturday.
“Hopefully, I maintain my game and win,” said Villacencio, out to end a long title spell and string of missed cut stints.
Clyde Mondilla best typified the sudden shift of fates in scorching heat as the two-leg winner threatened to dominate the field with an eagle-spiked five-under 30 start. But the back-to-back winner at Southwoods and Villamor lost his touch and focus at the back, dropping two strokes on the par-5 No. 10, reeled with three straight bogeys from No. 13 then holed out with a double-bogey on the 18th.
From the top of the 73-player heap, the Del Monte ace tumbled to joint 26th at 73, eight shots off the pace in the early going of the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Alido also eagled the reachable par-5 No. 6 and birdied No. 8 to shoot a 67 in another impressive start for the rookie pro out to atone for his failed bid at Orchard last May where he co-led in the first round with a 68 but missed the cut with a second round 85.
“I played pretty good and my short game and putting clicked,” said Alido who also came through with three scrambling pars to put himself again in early contention. “I learned my lesson at Orchard and I swear, it won’t happen again.”
Manila Masters titlist Tony Lascuña, meanwhile, outplayed ICTSI Luisita champion Miguel Tabuena and recent Calatagan leg winner Zanieboy Gialon, birdying two of the last three holes to fire a 68 for third, while another obscure bet Rico Depilo stood a stroke behind at 69 in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.
Elmer Salvador bogeyed the 18th and missed joining Depilo at fourth with a 70, settling for joint fifth with Benjie Magada, Ferdie Aunzo, Jobim Carlos, Anthony Fernando and Korean Hwang Myung Chal.
Gialon, who routed the field to nail his fourth career win in Calatagan two weeks ago, shot three birdies but fumbled with a double-bogey on the first hole and a bogey to match par 71, the same output put in by Jay Bayron, Justin Quiban, Joenard Rates, Gerald Rosaels, Nilo Salahog, Efren Reyes Jr., Aussie Jason Dawes and amateur Raymart Tolentino.
Tabuena, taking a break from the European Tour, had a rollercoaster round in his first local tournament since rallying from behind to snare the ICTSI Luisita Championship from South African Mathiam Keyser last May, hitting three birdies but stumbling with five bogeys, including on No. 18 that dropped him to joint 20th at 72.
Other one-over par scorers were Frankie Miñoza, Rufino Bayron, Randy Garalde, Jet Mathay and amateur Judson Eustaquio.