Juvic wins again, nips Bibat in playoff

Juvic Pagunsan

ILOILO – Juvic Pagunsan birdied the 18th from two feet to nip Michael Bibat in sudden death, snatching the ICTSI Iloilo Golf Challenge crown and capping an amazing sweep of the last three legs of the Visayan swing of the Philippine Golf Tour here yesterday.

Proving he’s a cut above the rest, Pagunsan hit three birdies at the front to tie third round joint leader Rene Menor at the helm then recovered from a bogey on No. 10 with a birdie on the 17th to match Bibat’s closing 67 and force a sudden death at 272s.

But the region’s former No. 1 used his experience and showed his poise in sudden death, unleashing a superb drive on their return to the par-4 closing hole then hitting his approach shot to “gimme” distance. He first watched Bibat muff his own birdie bid from 12 feet to nail another crown worth P550,000 put up by ICTSI.

Menor came up short on his home course with a 70 and ended up third at 273 while Pastor sputtered at the back and limped with a 73 to drop joint sixth at 276.

“I just tried to keep the leaders in sight and I’m so happy to win again,” said Pagunsan, who earlier flubbed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to enable Bibat to force a playoff. “It was pure luck.”

After sweeping the Bacolod legs of the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.-organized circuit in Binitin and Marapara in smashing fashions, Pagunsan had hinted at skipping the Iloilo stop to take a much-needed break but decided to play at the last minute. He made a so-so 69 start for joint 12th, barely moved at 10th with a 68 in the second round but pulled within two after another two-under card Friday.

“I struggled with my putting in the first three days so I polished my stroke Friday. I’m happy it produced good results,” added Pagunsan, who has banked a total of P1.55 million in three weeks after matching Tony Lascuña’s three-peat feat at Eagle Ridge, Forest Hills and Bacolod in 2016.

It was a sorry setback for BIbat, who worked his way back into contention after a pair of 70s in the middle rounds, shooting three birdies in the first 14 holes. He bogeyed the next but birdied the 16th to keep in step with Pagunsan but came up short in the end to extend his winless run since scoring a win at Palos Verdes in 2013. He took home P370,000.

Despite Pagunsan’s sizzling 33 at the front, Menor held on to a share of the lead with Bibat at eight-under overall after 14 holes. But the local pride cracked under pressure and dropped two strokes on the tough par-4 No. 15 for the second straight day, enabling Bibat and Pagunsan, in a flight behind, to wrest control till the finish.

Menor did birdie the 17th but settled for a par on the last to finish with an even par and a 273 for third worth P215,000, his best finish since scoring his maiden win at PGT Asia at Splendido in 2017.

Ira Alido rallied from five down after 54 holes with six birdies in the first eight holes in third-to-last flight. But the former amateur hotshot stumbled with a bogey on the ninth and slowed down with just a birdie to show at the back, missing tieing Menor at third with a bogey on the last hole.

He wound up with a 66 and tied for fourth with Fidel Concepcion at 274.

Concepcion, just one stroke off Menor and Pastor at the start of the final round, stayed in the hunt with a par-game after 14 holes. But like Menor, the Sydney-based Filipino stumbled with a double-bogey on No. 15 to reel back, needing to birdie the last two holes to post his best finish thus far in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. Alido and Concepcion split the combined P295,000 purse.
Former Philippine Masters champion Jerson Balasabas fired the day’s best score of 64 and came out from nowhere to earn a share of sixth place at 276 with Reymon Jaraula, who carded a 71, and Pastor, who ended with a three-over card.

Despite a three birdie-three bogey stint at the front, Pastor remained in the title race but the Spanish ace, who topped the PGT Q-School at Splendido last February, wavered when the going got tough at the back, yielding two strokes on No. 12 then falling farther back with bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16. He birdied the last to save a three-over card.
Thai Kammalas Namuangruk, leader at the halfway mark of the event that capped a four-leg Visayan swing of the circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc., and former national champion Anthony Fernando closed out with identical 69s and shared ninth place at 277.