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Japanese sneaks past Bibat with 64

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Iloilo—Japanese Makoto Iwasaki bucked windy conditions and tricky greens and birdied two of the last five holes, dislodging Michael Bibat off the leaderboard with a solid six-under 64 as he emerged the surprise leader at the start of the rich ICTSI Iloilo Golf Challenge here yesterday.

Japanese sneaks past Bibat with 64
Makoto Iwasaki uses his wedge to get into the green.

Makoto came out strong following a missed cut showing at Binitin and a one-round stint in Marapara, gunning down three straight birdies from the long range from No. 3 in one of the late flights, adding another on the ninth before capping his pair of 32s with birdies on Nos. 14 and 16.

“It was a perfect game,” said Makoto, himself a bit surprised over his performance on a par-70 course he hasn’t played before but mastered with superb iron game and putting.

“The greens are hard to read. You have to be cautious here since a slight mistake could lead you to trouble,” said the 29-year-old campaigner from Chiba, who withdrew after shooting an 80 in the first round in Negros Occidental. His 64 however fell two strokes off absentee and last year’s champion Jobim Carlos’ record card in the third round.

Bibat looked headed to grabbing the first day honors in the P3 million event put up by ICTSI as he overcame a bogey start and a shaky finish with a pair of birdie binges for a 65 until Makoto came in with that 64 in overcast skies.

The former Asian Games bronze medalist, who tied for second at Club Filipino de Cebu Invitational but struggled to finish joint 10th and 26th in Binitin and Marapara, actually fumbled with a bogey on No. 10 where he teed off. But he hit four straight birdies from No. 11, the last, a par-5, barely missing an eagle putt from six feet.

He strung up three straight from No. 2 but bogeyed the par-4 sixth for a 34-31.

“Despite my flubbed eagle putt, I putted well all day. But the course is tough, you have to hit it on the right position to get a good shot at birdies,” said Bibat.

Aussie Fidel Concepcion and Thai Kammalas Namuangruk carded identical 66s while American Lexus Keonin, Cebu leg champion Dutch Gudo Van der Valk and Tim Stewart, also from Australia, matched Anthony Fernando’s 67 while another Japanese Kanata Nakagawa shot a 68 for joint ninth with Ira Alido and Jay Bayron as the foreign bets took seven of the top 11 spots in one of their strongest starts in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Juvic Pagunsan came out virtually cold while playing pressure-free after scoring back-to-back title romps in hometown Bacolod the last two weeks but remained a threat at 69 along with one-under par scores Joenard Rates, Jhonnel Ababa, Art Arbole, Paul Echavez, Albin Engino, Rene Menor, JR Salahog, Colombia’s Mateo Gomez, Spain’s Marcos Pastor and Yudai Suzuki of Japan.

Suzuki spiked his 35-34 round with an eagle on the par-5 No. 4 and hit two birdies but made three bogeys although he hopes Makoto will sustain his big start unlike him who faltered in the lastr three rounds and ended up tied at 29th after surprising the elite field with a flawless lead-grabbing 64 in Negros.

Pagunsan seemed to have lacked the fire that spiked his recent victories, settling for pars in the first 10 holes from the back. He even fell to one-over with a bogey on the second but regained the stroke on No. 4 and holed out with another birdie for a 35-34 as he joined 10 others at 12th in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.


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