Quiban takes 4-shot lead

Justin Quiban
Justin Quiban

BACOLOD – Justin Quiban drove through the tight Binitin course with clockwork precision for the second straight day, shooting a six-under 64 and wresting a huge four-stroke lead over erstwhile leader Nilo Salahog and a horde of fancied pursuers halfway through the ICTSI Bacolod Golf Challenge here yesterday.

While majority opted to use their 3-wood or long irons off the tee, Quiban continued to lean on his trusted driver and superb putting to turn in another superb round, spiked by four birdies against a bogey at the back and capped by three birdies in his closing side at the front.

“I’ve been on-point with my tee shots since the first round and that I believe is my edge,” said Quiban, who pooled a 10-under 130 at the tree-lined par-70 Bacolod Golf and Country Club. “On a very tight course like this one, it’s all about precision over power.”

After hitting a pair of eight-footers for birdies on Nos. 11 and 12, Quiban hit one bad drive that went out-of-bounds on par-4 No. 13 but salvaged a bogey then resumed his birdie binge on Nos. 14, 15 and 1 before holing out with back-to-back feats.

“My chances are very good but I have to keep what I’ve been doing the first two days, making exceptional drives to go with impeccable putting,” said Quiban, who went on a slump after scoring a breakthrough win at Philippine Golf Tour Asia at Luisita last December.

Salahog, who upstaged the stellar field with a lead-grabbing 65 Wednesday, stumbled with a bogey on No. 2 but fought back with four birdies in a nine-hole stretch from No. 5 to keep Quiban within sight. Two bogeys in the last five holes, however, stalled his charge, his 69 dropping him to a five-way tie for second at 134.

They include two of the tournament’s most feared names as Jobim Carlos, who posted two victories and a pair of runner-up finishes in the last seven tournaments on the PGTA and PGT put up by ICTSI, rebounded from a mediocre 70 with a solid 64 while Jay Bayron, the PGTA winner at Southwoods last month, turned in a second straight 67.

Johvanie Abaño also matched Bayron’s two-day scores while Arnold Villacencio, also out to snap a long title spell in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., sizzled with a 65 to move four strokes adrift of the pace.

“The greens are tough to read and most are bumpy. It’s really a challenge to putt very well here,” said Salahog.

Tony Lascuña, a playoff winner here in 2016, shot a four-under card at the back but needed to birdie No. 9 to recover from bogeys on Nos. 1 and 8 on errant drives. He put in a 67 and moved to solo seventh at 135, five shots behind.

Clyde Mondilla, the reigning PGT Order of Merit champion, charged back early with a birdie on No. 13 and an eagle on the par-5 15th. But the Del Monte ace seeking to end a long slump reeled back with three bogeys in the first seven holes at the front. He birdied No. 8 to save a 69 and stayed at eighth at 136.

Charles Hong and Dutch Guido Van der Valk both carded 68s and stood seven strokes off Quiban at 137 heading to the last 36 holes of the P2.5 million event backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.

Forty three players made the cut at 144, including Ferdie Aunzo (72), Jun Bernis (69), Japanese Takahashi Keisuke (69), Jeffrey Pito-on (70) and Efren Reyes Jr. (72), but local hero Robert Pactolerin fell short with a 146 despite a 70 along with American Lexus Keoninh (76-147), Tonlits Asistio (76-148) and Marvin Dumandan (74-149).