Kim hangs tough as Carlos charges back with 67

Kim Joo Hyung
Kim Joo Hyung
Kim Joo Hyung checked a shaky finish with back-to-back birdies, matching Jobim Carlos’ fiery windup to cling to a one-stroke lead with a 69 and stay on course for a breakthrough in the ICTSI Pueblo De Oro Championship.

Kim, 16, flashed steely nerves under pressure, rebounding from a missed green bogey on No. 16 with birdies on the last two that somehow cushioned the impact of Carlos’ fiery windup that spiked the latter’s bogey-free 67 in another day of torrid scoring at the Pueblo De Oro layout.

“I hit some great shots today (yesterday) and my putting strokes were better although I missed some birdie chances,” said Kim, whose 15-under 201 aggregate put the rising Korean star 18 holes away from becoming one of the youngest winners on tour at 16.

But Carlos, who assembled a 202, made sure to hound Kim in his first clear crack at the crown after the latter turned in a pair of joint sixth finishes in his first two pro tournaments at Apo and Del Monte.

Kim held Carlos at bay at the turn, staying three-up after matching the Filipino ace’s 34 start. But he bogeyed No. 11 and Carlos pulled within one with a birdie on the 12th although the Korean went 2-up again with his own birdie on No. 14 only to drop another stroke on No. 16 before the two players matched closing birdies to make it a one-stroke game.

“Playing against Kim was tough. He has vastly improved with his shotmaking since our amateur days,” said Carlos, also in the hunt for a second crown after scoring a come-from-behind win at Apo Invitational two weeks ago. “I have to bring my A-game to level with him. It should be fun in the last 18 holes.”

A horde of pursuers actually turned in fiery starts to make it a wide-open race but all faded out with mishaps at the backside that surprisingly held its own after yielding a number of under-par cards in the first two rounds of the P3 million event sponsored by ICTSI.

Jerson Balasabas came through with a birdie-par-eagle start and gunned down another birdie on No. 7 but missed a couple of birdie chances at the back and holed out with a birdie-bogey to finish with a 68. The reigning Philippine Masters champion did move to solo third but still trailed Kim by five at 206.

Lee Song also stayed within striking distance of his compatriot despite a frontside 35 but fumbled with a double-bogey on No. 10 and mixed a bogey on No. 13 with a birdie on the next and limped with a 73. He slid to fourth at 207.

Tony Lascuña, seven behind Kim halfway through the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., pitched in for eagle on the par-4 opening hole then rattled off three birdies in the next six to move within four. But he bogeyed the ninth and had a roller-coaster backside run of three birdies against two bogeys and a double bogey for a 37 and a 69.

He dropped instead to joint fifth with Johvanie Abaño, who carded a 71, at 208, still seven strokes off the pace.

Reymon Jaraula likewise pressed his bid with four birdies in the first seven holes but yielded three strokes on the par-3 13th which he recovered with birdies on Nos. 14, 16 and 17. He pooled a 209 for joint seventh with Koreans Kim Sung Wook and Park Jun Sung, who shot 69 and 71, respectively.

Dutch Guido Van der Valk, winner of the PGT’s kickoff leg at Eagle Ridge last March, also fired a 68 but stood far behind with Elmer Salvador, who matched par 72, at 210 heading to the final 18 holes of the event backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.