American Tarik Can and Reymon Jaraula birdied the tricky par-4 No. 7 on separate flights as they posted two of the tournament-best three one-under 71s and emerged from a packed leaderboard as co-leaders halfway through the Aboitiz Invitational at Wack Wack’s East course.
Can, who mixed six birdies against the same number of bogeys in his very first tournament play at the fabled layout Wednesday, had almost the same roller-coaster outing (two birdies-two bogeys) at the back yesterday. But after a run of pars he rolled in a bending putt from 20 feet on the seventh which Jaraula later matched from a shorter distance as they broke out of a nine-player logjam to wrest control at 143.
“This course is very difficult to play — tall roughs, combined with occasional strong wind made it tougher today (yesterday),” said Can, who had turned in forgettable finishers in his first two tournaments on the Philippine Golf Tour Asia.
“It was a good thing I was steady from tee to green. Hopefully, I can do the same today,” added the bearded shotmaker, who joined the pro ranks right after college at Augusta State.
Jaraula flashed some kind of consistency in taming the dreaded layout, birdying Nos. 2 and 3 for the second straight day then rebounded from a disastrous double-bogey on No. 4 with that late birdie from eight feet to find himself a bewildered co-leader for the first time in a mediocre five-year career.
“I didn’t expect to at least gain a share of the lead. The course is really tough. I just tried to play it safe all the time and avoid being in a difficult position to recover,” said Jaraula, who nevertheless failed to save at least a bogey after an errant drive on No. 4, needing three more shots to reach the green.
Despite Can and Jaraula’s surprise surge, the chase for the top $17,500 remains as tight and unpredictable as ever with at least 11 others within striking distance.
Ira Alido, Rico Depilo and Thai Kammalas Namuangruk matched par 72s for the second straight day to lay just a stroke behind the joint leaders at 144, Aussie Damien Jordan fired the other 71 to fuel his drive for back-to-back victories at 145 in a tie with Nirun Sae Ueng, also of Thailand, who stumbled with a 73.
American Lexus Keoninh hobbled with another late-hole miscue, dropping two strokes on the course’s signature hole — the par-3 8th — on his way home for a 72 and a 146 in a tie with Aussie Tim Stewart and Thai Pasavee Lertvilai, who carded 73 and 74, respectively.
“Toughest par-3 hole to play on when the wind was blowing 40kph,” rued Keoninh. “It’s a brutal and tough course and you just have to stay patient on.”
Peter Stojanovski, among those who opened with a 72, limped with a 75 and dropped to 11th at 147 while Marvin Dumandan and former champion Tony Lascuña pooled identical 148s after 74 and 75, respectively.
Given the tough playing conditions at one of the country’s toughest courses, the others still nurtured hopes to pulling it through with superb rounds in the last 36 holes of the $100,000 championship serving as the fourth leg of the third Philippine Golf Tour Asia season organized by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. and sanctioned by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Art Arbole carded a 75 while Keanu Jahns groped for a 76 but the duo still stayed in the mix despite 149, the same output put in by Thais Chonlatit Chuenboonngam and Ratchapol Jantavara, who shot 74 and 75, respectively.
Fifth two players made the cut at 154 with Rufino Bayron (74), Joseph Suarez (75), Singapore’s Gregory Foo (76), Zanieboy Gialon (77), Japanese Issei Mori (77), Jun Bernis (78), Rey Pagunsan (79) and Aussie Sam Gervinas (80) barely making it through the weekend play in the event backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High.
Among the casualties were former PGTA leg winner James Ryan Lam (81-155), Jay Bayron, winner of this event here in 2016, (77-157), reigning PGT Order of Merit champion but slumping Jobim Carlos (79-158), and Aussie David Gleeson, another former PGTA leg champion (82-160).