CAGAYAN de Oro: Dutch Guido Van der Valk put up a strong start and a stronger finish as he scorched the Pueblo de Oro course with a stirring seven-under 65 to wrest a one-stroke lead over Jay Bayron and Reymon Jaraula at the start of the ICTSI Pueblo de Oro Championship here on Wednesday.
Zanieboy Gialon fired a bogey-free 67, Ira Alido and Fil-German Keanu Jahns shot identical 68s, Magno Arancon Jr., Jun Bernis and Aussie Fidel Concepcion turned in similar 69s and Ferdie Aunzo, Jerson Balasabas, Tony Lascuña and Michael Bibat turned in 70s as the men of the tour went on a rebound after a punishing campaign at Wack Wack East in the Aboitiz Invitational last week.
Van der Valk, bristling with confidence after hurdling Stage 2 of the tough Japan PGA Tour qualifier last week, sizzled with four birdies at the front then bucked a three-putt miscue on the 10th with four straight birdies to spike his 33-32 card that came a stroke off Frankie Miñoza’s record 64 when he ruled this ICTSI-sponsored event in 2013.
“Very good,” was how Van der Valk described his round at the windy, up-and-down par-72 layout with winding fairways and deep ravines that saw him hit all but two greens in a fine display of iron play he complemented with superb putting, highlighted by a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 9.
Though he yielded the stroke on the next with a flubbed par-putt from six feet, the ace shotmaker from Lelystad, the Netherlands more than made up for the slip by birdying the last four, including a tap-in on No. 15, a five-footer on the next and a pair of seven-footers.
“I just hit it good and made the putts,” he said.
Bayron turned in a more fiery finish, three birdies and an eagle (No. 17) in the last four. Eager to make up for his missed cut stint at Aboitiz, the Davaoeño ace actually finished with a rare two pitch-in eagle feats, including on No. 7, and gunned down three birdies against four bogeys.
“I think I was just lucky to hit those eagles in practically the same fashion,” said Bayron, who hit a couple of solid 3-wood second shots then knocked down those eagles from 20 yards on both par-5 holes.
He birdied Nos. 15 and 16 from 10 feet then took some hint at Jaraula’s muffed putt from afar to drill in a 30-footer on the last hole.
Also out to atone for his foldup in the last 36 holes at Wack Wack, Jaraula came through with a bogey-free 66 that lined up the rising Del Monte star again for another crack at the crown after blowing his bid at Aboitiz which he led after the first two rounds.
Gialon fell one birdie short to matching Jaraula’s flawless card but his 34-33 round likewise put him in the early mix of contenders in the P2.5 million event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and serving as the sixth leg of the 10th season of the Philippine Golf Tour.
Johvanie Abaño, Korean Sangrog, Paul Echavez, Japanese Kanata Nakagawa, Spain’s Salvador Paya Vila and Elmer Saban all carded 71s while 10 others matched par, including reigning Philippine Open champion Clyde Mondilla, PGT Asia leg winners Jhonnel Ababa and Joenard Rates, Rufino Bayron, Rico Depilo, Noel Langamin, Koreans Park Jun Sung and amateur Seo Dong Bin and American Lexus Keoninh.
That makes the chase for the top 40 plus ties fiercer in today’s second round with at least 30 others out to scramble for spots in the last two rounds of the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.