Polthai hangs on but Juvic misses cut

STA. ROSA, Laguna – Tawit Polthai checked an alarming skid with birdies in the last two holes to salvage a four-over 76 and barely hang on to the clubhouse lead after 36 holes of the Solaire Philippine Open at The Country Club here.

Shocking was Juvic Pagunsan’s second round performance. The country’s best bet here, hard-pressed to come up with a big rebound after an opening 77 Wednesday, dropped six strokes right on his first hole at the par-5 10th and bowed out in the race for even a spot in the last 36 holes of the $500,000 championship.

Tawit Polthai
Tawit Polthai

He bogeyed three of the next five, dropped two strokes on the par-3 17th, double-bogeyed No. 1 and made two more bogeys against a lone birdie in the next five to finish with an atrocious 86 for a 19-over 163 in an unlikely stint for a player who came into the event oozing with confidence following a seven-stroke romp in ICTSI Riviera Challenge.

After bucking tough conditions in a late start for a solid 67 in the first round, Polthai oddly groped for form while playing in one of the early flights yesterday, bogeying the first two holes at the back and spending the rest of the round either scrambling to save par or trying to save his spot at the top.

The Bangkok native failed on the first but his closing back-to-back birdies from No. 8 enabled him to keep his hold of the lead at one-under 143 albeit provisionally with half of the starting 131-player field still to complete play at presstime.

Keanu Jahns, who hit a late eagle on No. 8 to rescue a 73 in the first round, crowded Polthai with four birdies against two birdies after 13 holes. But the Fil-German shotmaker still in pursuit of a breakthrough win, bogeyed three of the last five to end up with a second one-over card for a 146.

Thai Nirun Sae Ueng likewise produced a four-over total after another 73 with Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia also matching that output with a gutsy 72 while PGT Asia CAT Open champion James Ryan Lam fought back from a triple-bogey mishap on No. 5 with three straight birdies from No. 6 but holed out with a bogey for a 73 and a 148 in a tie with Thai Chonlatit Chuenboonngam, who fumbled with a 76 and England’s Joshua Grenville-Wood, who fired a 72.

Others with completed 36-hole rounds were Aussie Nathan Park (77-152), Thai Chawalit Plahpol (75-152) and Dutch Guido Van der Valk (76-152) while Cookie La’O, who put in an impressive 72 in the first round, skied to an 80 to drop to the 152 group.

Only the top 65 plus will advance to the final 36 holes of the $500,000 event sponsored by Solaire Resort & Casino for the third straight year with the projected cut pegged at nine-over, guaranteeing a wild, wooly chase for spots in the weekend play of the country’s premier championship and Asia’s oldest National Open sanctioned by the National Golf Association of the Philippines.

American Brett Munson also faltered with an 80 to slip to 153 in a tie with Aussie Nathan Park, who also fumbled with a 78 while teetering on the brink are Thai Poosit Supupramai (77-154), Jay Bayron (75-156), England’s Grant Jackson (82-156), Thai Ratchapol Jantavara (78-156), Phanuch Onchu, also of Thailand, (76-156).

PGT Asia Luisita leg winner David Gleeson of Australia bowed out with an 80 for a 162.

Brimming with confidence after churning out a bogey-free, eagle-aided five-under card that netted him a huge four-stroke lead over Clyde Mondilla and Aussie Jack Sullivan, Polthai instead came out cold in the fourth flight at the back, bogeying the first two holes. He did birdie the par-5 14th for the second straight time but bogeyed two of the next four for a 39.

He birdied the first but dropped four strokes in the next six holes to lose grip of the lead but rebounded with those closing birdies.

After missing five fairways and eight greens Wednesday, Polthai actually went 11-of-14 off the mound but struggled with his irons, failing to hit regulation 11 times though he had a decent stint on the greens with 29 putts, four more than in the first day of the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by ICTSI, PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High.