Ira Alido took charge with a 73 despite a final-hole bogey, earning a two-stroke lead over erstwhile joint leader Tarik Can of the US and Thai Nirun Sae Ueng and moving 18 holes away from scoring a breakthrough victory in the Aboitiz Invitational yesterday.
The former amateur hotshot actually looked headed to posting a third straight even par card at the tough Wack Wack East on a big recovery from a bogey-bogey stumble from No. 2 with birdies on Nos. 10 and 14 and a bigger cushion. But he fell short off the 18th green and failed to get up-and-down on a flubbed par-putt from six feet.
But his 38-35 proved enough to shove him past a slew of rivals that kept scrambling for spots atop the leaderboard while trying to buck the buffeting wind that blew from all over, sending the scores soaring and the rest of the bidders tumbling.
“I targeted the front of the green (No. 18) but came up short. I had a chance to save par from six feet but didn’t make it though,“ said Alido, whose 217 put him closer to a dream title run in the Philippine Golf Tour Asia event organized by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc.
When asked of his game-plan in the last 18 holes, the 18-year-old sophomore pro said he would still opt for conservative play and “try to limit the bogeys.”
Can, who with Reymon Jaraula broke out of a nine-player tie and shared the lead with a pair of 71s Thursday, failed to check his skid and skied to a 76, his two 38s marred by three bogeys and two double bogeys, mishaps that could easily ruin one’s title bid on a course as exacting as the fabled layout.
But he gunned down three birdies, the last on the par-5 No. 13 that got him back into the thick of things at 219 in a tie with Sae Ueng, whose 74 likewise lined him up for a maiden victory on the region’s emerging circuit put up by ICTSI.
“I have to eliminate these kind of mistakes if I hope to get my first championship on the PGTA,” said Can, who dumped his drive into the water on No. 7, which he birdied in the second round to seize control. He also hit it into the woods on the 10th for his other 6.
Jaraula fared worse than Can with a 77 that was also ruined by two double bogeys and three bogeys against two birdies. But the unheralded but talented shotmaker from Bukidnon dropped just three strokes behind Alido at 220 in the company of former champion Tony Lascuña, American Lexus Keoninh, obscure Rico Depilo and defending champion Damien Jordan of Australia.
Lascuña, out to snap a long title spell on PGT Asia, blew a solid start of back-to-back birdies with bogeys on No. 4 and 15 but came through with a couple of par-saves to salvage a 72 while Keoninh groped for a birdie-less 74 and Depilo missed grabbing a rare spot at the top with two bogeys and a double bogey in the last five holes.
“I think a closing three-under par will win it,” said Lascuña.
But if there’s one player capable of pulling it off in the end, it is Jordan, who despite a faltering finish of bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16, had stayed on course for back-to-back title drive after dominating last year’s staging at Orchard’s Palmer course.
Thai Chonlatit Chuenboonnga and Fil-German Keanu Jahns matched par 72s and tied fellow Thai Kammalas Namuangruk, who joined the crowded leaderboard with a 36 start but reeled back with a closing 41 for a 77, at 221.
Jhonnel Ababa, the winningest player with four victories in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High, birdied the 17th to save a 72 for joint 12th with Thai Pasavee Lertvilai, who skied with a 76, at 222, just five behind Alido, who remained wary of his title chances on a course that could wipe out a huge lead in an instant in the slightest of mistakes but rewards those with well-thought out shots.
Three shot 71s but Gerald Rosales, a former Phl Open winner here, Thai Niyomchon Donlapatchai, could only pool 223s in a tie with Aussie Tim Stewart, who groped for a 77, and Thai Wisut Artjanawat, winner of the first PGT Asia leg in Taiwan last May, could only assemble a 224 for joint 17th with American Brett Munson and Marvin Dumandan, who shot 74 and 76, respectively.