Superb iron game propels Kim Joo Hyung

Kim Joo Hyung

Kim Joo Hyung

Kim Joo Hyung moved on top again behind another fiery start and a solid iron game that helped produce an eagle-2, shooting a five-under 66 and wresting control by four halfway through Philippine Golf Tour Asia’s ICTSI Forest Hills Championship at the Nicklaus course here yesterday.

Kim, who charged into early contention on a late 65 output Wednesday, drilled in four birdies and banged in an eagle off a superb 9-iron shot from 145 yards on the par-4 No. 9 to highlight another scorching round that put the rising 16-year-old star on top at 11-under 131 and on course for a second straight victory after a record win in the ICTSI Pueble De Oro stop of the PGT last week.

“My game in the first two days has been stress-free, not making much of mistakes,” said Kim, who has dominated the national amateur scene the past two years before joining the pro ranks with a strong joint second finish in the PGT Asia Q-School at Luisita last April. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to do this in the next couple of days.”

He could’ve actually pulled away but flubbed a couple of birdie chances on the first two par-5s and fumbled with an unlikely bogey on the last par-5 at No. 16, which he birdied in the first round.

Still, his 32-34 effort gave the young Korean a big cushion heading to the last 36 holes of the $100,000 event sponsored by ICTSI as overnight leader Josh Salah lost his momentum after a superb bogey-free 63 start and bogeyed the last two holes for a 73, a host of erstwhile contenders failed to match Kim’s blistering pace and fell farther back and two local top guns stumbled and fumbled to make it to through the halfway cut.

South African Mathiam Keyser did recover from a double-bogey mishap on No. 6 with a cluster of birdies – six in an eight-hole stretch from No. 9 – and turned in a 67 as he joined amateur Judson Eustaquio at second at 135, four strokes off Kim.

Eustaquio, using his local knowledge of the layout where he is the golf director, hit three birdies to complete a bogey-free 68, while Salah tumbled to joint fourth at 136 with Elmer Salvador, who shot a second 68.

Thai Itthipat Buranatanyarat, in joint second with Kim and local bet Albin Engino after 18 holes, also fumbled with a 72 and dropped to joint sixth at 139 with Jobim Carlos, Reymon Jaraula, Thai Natchanon Varapornkittirat and American John Michael O’Toole while Jhonnel Ababa stood a shot farther back at 140 after a 68.

Engino actually kept Kim in check with three birdies in the first eight holes but lost sight of the leader as he lost his touch and rhythm and limped with four bogeys and ended up with a 72 to drop to joint sixth.

Carlos, winner of the recent PGT Asia Riviera and PGT Apo, also struggled after a solid 66 start, limping with a double-bogey on No. 5 and dropping a stroke on No. 14 against three birdies for a 71. Jaraula rebound with a 67 while Varapornkittirat and O’Toole both shot 69s to lay six strokes off the pace with two days left in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Michael Bibat (76), American Sydney Chung (76), Aussie Nicholas Coxon (73), Charles Hong (75) and Korean Park Jun Sung (72) barely made the cut at 146 but reigning PGT Order of Merit winner Clyde Mondilla (70) and pre-tournament favorite and winner here the last two years Tony Lascuña (75) failed to advance with 147 and 148, respectively, in the fourth leg of the region’s newest circuit backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.