Golf: 9 share lead as wild finish mars Aboitiz opener

Ira Alido came out a bit better and luckier than American Lexus Keoninh and Aussie Tim Stewart in a wild, stumbling finish in a virtual day of survival at the dreaded Wack Wack’s East, salvaging a 72 despite a double-bogey on the ninth and dropping to a crowded 9-player leaderboard at the start of the Aboitiz Invitational 2019 yesterday.

Alido dumped his approach shot on the long par-4 No. 9, his closing hole, on the greenside bunker and struggled to get out off a bad lie, ending up with a 6 that spoiled what could’ve been a strong start for a player who had missed the cut in two of the first three of legs of the third Philippine Golf Tour Asia.

Ira Alido bucks a faulty closing stint off the bunker on No. 9 to save a spot in a crowded leaderboard
Ira Alido bucks a faulty closing stint off the bunker on No. 9 to save a spot in a crowded leaderboard

“Overall, I’m satisfied with my game as I was able to play the way I planned it – hit the fairways and greens since the East is not a birdie course,” said Alido, who failed to advance at Luisita and Southwoods. “Just got a little bit unlucky on the ninth where I had a bad lie and I had to hit with my other foot outside of the bunker.”

Worst were Stewart and Keoninh, who had looked forward to grabbing the first day honors in the $100,000 event organized by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. with a pair of under-par cards heading to the last three holes on opposite nines. But Stewart, who spiked his fine start with three straight birdies from No. 1 coming home, bogeyed the last three and wound up with a 73 while Keoninh also bogeyed the last three at the back and limped with a 74.

Those late mishaps enabled Alido to emerge on top, along with eight others, including seven who bucked hot, windy conditions in morning play to get into the early mix in the 72-hole championship serving as the fourth leg of this year’s circuit organized by Piilpinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

“Yeah, it was tough but just got to grind it out the whole week,” said Keoninh, who served notice of his title drive by topping the pro-am tournament Tuesday.

Keoninh carried a two-under card after birdying the par-5 13th but bogeyed the next and after parring No. 15, he wavered and dropped strokes on the next three.

So did Stewart, runner-up in the last PGTA leg at Southwoods, who came out of a two-birdie, three-bogey round at the back smoking with three birdies in row at the turn, only to yield the strokes on the last three that typified the field’s struggle on one of the country’s toughest championship courses.

“The course is really difficult. It’s like you just have to finish it whatever the results,” said Stewart.

Others who survived the ordeal by saving even par rounds for a share of the lead were Tarik Can of the US, Englishman Matt Killen, Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia, Thais Pasavee Lertvilai, Kammalas Namuangruk and Nirun Sae Ueng and other locals Rico Depilo and Reymon Jaraula.

Jay Bayron failed to back up his pre-tournament brag of a strong outing, bombing out with four bogeys right in the first nine holes at the back on poor putting and matched that disastrous start with another frontside 40 marred by a double-bogey on the ninth for an 80.

Three years after ruling this event with a two-stroke victory over Malaysian Gavin Green, here, Bayron is in danger of missing the top 50 plus ties cut in the $100,000 championship serving as the fourth leg of the third PGT Asia season and backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High.

Former champion Tony Lascuña also bogeyed the 18th and missed joining the leaders, slipping to joint 10th with Stewart along with Michael Bibat and Japanese Keita Sudo while Keoninh fell to a big group of two-over par scorers that included defending champion Damien Jordan of Australia and compatriot Sam Gervinas, Thais Ratchapol Jantavara and Tawan Phongphun, Japanese Naoya Takahashi and Seiji Yanagisawa and Filipinos Keanu Jahns, Art Arbole, Marvin Dumandan and James Ryan Lam.

Jordan, who dominated the field with his power game and won by four at Orchard’s Palmer course in Cavite last year, also succumbed to the course’s tricky finishing holes, bogeying three of the last four.

Americans Matt Lutz and Brett Munson hobbled with 75s in a tie with Thai Chonlatit Chuenboonngam, Argentine Emilio Parodi and Rey Pagunsan while Elmer Salvador, whose back-to-back victories in the 2012-13 edition of the annual event in Cebu remains unmatched to this day, gunned down two birdies but fumbled with three bogeys on each nine to fall to 76 in the company of Aussies Fidel Concepcion, Jack Lane-Weston and Jerram Chudleigh, Thai Donlaphatchai Niyomchon, Joshua Salah of the US, Korean Shin Seung Woo and locals Jun Bernis, Anthony Fernando, Charles Hong, Mars Pucay, Justin Quibam, and Jhonnel Ababa, the winningest player on PGTA with four victories but blew a birdie start on No. 3 with three bogeys and one double bogey.

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