Tarlac—Ira Alido flaunted his power and ball control then bucked the wind at the finish to fire a bogey-free six-under 66 and wrest a one-stroke lead over Clyde Mondilla and two other foreign aces at the start of the ICTSI Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open here yesterday.
Cashing in on his local knowledge of the tight, challenging Luisita Golf and Country Club, Alido actually only got going when the going got tough, scorching the backside with five birdies for a 35-31 that stood as the best in a day when the early starters took charge in the $100,000 event serving as the sixth leg of the third season of Philippine Golf Tour Asia.
“The greens are quite tough but manageable but I had to toughen up at the back with the wind coming into play. But I’m quite familiar with the course since I used to practice and play here during my amateur days,” said Alido, who has put up a number of impressive finishes in the last few PGT and PGT Asia tournaments anchored on strong starts.
But closing out has been the 18-year-old shotmaker’s main concern, at least in a couple of tournaments, including in Aboitiz Invitational of the PGT Asia and in last week’s ICTSI South Pacific Classic of the PGT, which he both led in the third round only to waver in pressure-packed finishes.
“I actually failed to hold on to my lead at South Pacific because I was not feeling well then. This time, I’m okay and in top shape physically and mentally to last me for four days,” added the sophomore pro, who settled for fifth at Wack and Wack and finished second in Davao.
But stalking him at 67s is a troika of veterans ready to pounce on the slightest miscue, led by Mondilla, who gunned down five birdies after 15 holes, including a flubbed eagle putt from 10 feet on the par-5 12th, only to stumble with a wet bogey on the par-5 16th. The reigning Philippine Open champion, however, holed out with a birdie on the 18th to catch Aussie Tim Stewart and American Brett Munson at second.
Starting out at the back, the big-hitting Stewart shook off a bogey on No. 11 with three birdies in the next four holes then shot three more birdies at the front for a 33-34 he preserved with four scrambling pars, while Munson went on a six-birdie spree after 13 holes but missed joining Alido at the helm with a bogey on No. 14 for his own version of a 33-34.
A slew of others, including the fancied bets and the lesser lights, stood just a stroke, two or three shots farther back, ensuring a wild chase for the crown worth $17,500 in the 72-hole championship put up by ICTSI and which drew 36 campaigners on PGA of Taiwan (TPGA), this event being co-sanctioned by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and TPGA.
Korean-American Micah Shin, who scored his breakthrough win here at the CAT Open in 2016, missed forcing a four-way tie at second with a late bogey at the front, settling for a 68 in a tie with Anthony Fernando, while Peng Hung-Ching emerged as the best performer among TPGA campaigners with a 69 for joint seventh with American Lexus Keoninh, Gerald Rosales, Rupert Zaragosa, Rufino Bayron and Dutch Guido Van der Valk, winner of the PGT kickoff leg in Cebu last June.
But one marked player also churned out a round good enough to put him in the early mix as Tony Lascuna broke a two-birdie, two-bogey game after 13 holes with birdies on Nos. 14 and 18 for a 70.
He lay four shots off the pace but the veteran shotmaker, hot on a three-win romp sparked by a thrilling victory at the Nan Pao TPGA Open in Taiwan last month, liked where he stood, hinting at another fiery finish the way he did in South Pacific after a wire-to-wire triumph at Apo.
“I couldn’t get my rhythm in the early going but I was able to hit a couple of late birdies,” said Lascuna. “Though four behind, I still like my chances. But there are many good, strong players.”
Other two-under par scorers are Laotian Bebe Bouahom, Taiwanese He Chin-Hung, and Tseng Hong Sheng, Mars Pucay, Elmer Salvador and Justin Quiban, winner of this event, backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High, in 2017.