Angelo Que barely survived wicked conditions at The Country Club yesterday, grabbing a share of the lead despite a three-over 75 as Japanese Toru Nakajima limped with a 77 halfway through the TCC Invitational-Don Pocholo Razon Memorial Cup in Santa Rosa, Laguna.
The long par-72 layout, with the pins placed on strategic spots, continued to bedevil the games of the elite field with Miguel Tabuena’s gutsy 74 proving to be the best when the wind blew from all over, sending the scores soaring for the second straight day in the P5 million championship.
“It’s really tough with the wind coupled with difficult pin placements,” said Que, a three-time winner here. “But I’m still happy with the way I played. I missed a few putts but the TCC is really tough and they won’t make it easy for you. You have to fight for it.”
This early, however, the TCC, offering a true test of golf, seemed to have taken the fight out of the stellar cast.
Nakajima, after a surprise lone under-par opening 70, hobbled with a five-over 77 but was lucky enough to at least held on to a share of lead with Que at three-over 147, easily the highest 36-hole total posted in local golf in years.
Five-over is a normal game. Yesterday (Thursday) was just too good,” said Nakajima, who struggled all day in high wind, bogeying Nos. 4, 6, 9, 11, 12 and 16 against a lone birdie on the par-5 10th.
Tabuena, 22, went one-under with a birdie on the 10th but wavered when the wind picked up in the closing holes, dropping a stroke on No. 13 before fumbling with a double-bogey on the tough par-4 16th.
Still his 74 stood as the day’s best and the former Philippine Open champion and Olympian stayed in the hunt for his first TCC crown with a 149, just two behind the joint leaders, with two rounds left in the event put up by ICTSI chairman and president Ricky Razon in 2003 to honor the memory of his father, ICTSI founder Don Pocholo.
“I got unlucky with a double (bogey) on No. 16. I hit a good drive and the second shot was good. But I misjudged the wind and it came a little bit short and hit the bunker,” rued Tabuena, who blasted poorly and went over the green for that 6.
“But I’m happy with round. Exactly where I want to be – to have a chance in the last two days. You can’t win the tournament on the second day but you can certainly lose it (on the second day),” he added.
Like Que, Juvic Pagunsan remained on track of a record fourth TCC championship but the Japan PGA Tour regular missed forcing a three-way tie for the lead with bogeys in the last three holes.
Pagunsan, who finished tied for eighth in the recent ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Q-School, fought back from an opening 39 with birdies on Nos. 10, 12 and 14 to but bogeyed the last three and settled for a 75 and 150 for joint fourth with Jhonnel Ababa.
Ababa, impressive with an even-par 72 in the first round, also found the going a lot tougher, stumbling with two double bogeys and finishing with a 78.
Unfancied Arnold Villacencio shot a 77 for solo sixth at 152 while reigning PGT Order of Merit winner Tony Lascuña stood a shot farther back at 153 after a 77 and Orlan Sumcad pooled a 155 after a 76 and Dutch Guido Van der Valk also skied to a 77 for a 157, 10 strokes off the pace.
The rest lay too far behind with former champion Frankie Miñoza limping with an 82 for 158 in a tie with Charles Hong, who carded a 76, and Japanese Ryoma Miki, who fumbled with an 80.