Joe Knox holed out with a birdie on the ninth which Keanu Jahns bogeyed later in a jumbling frontside finish for a key two-shot swing that earned the Englishman a shared view of the top with the Fil-German as the erstwhile leaders faltered and tumbled in a topsy-turvy second round of the ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic in Lubao, Pampanga yesterday.
Knox, who birdied two of the last three holes to save a first round 71 Tuesday, checked a roller-coaster two-birdie, three-bogey round after 11 holes from No. 10 with three straight birdies from No. 3 but tripped with a second straight bogey on the long 491-yard No. 6 before birdying the par-5 finishing hole, also for the second straight day, to preserve a 70.
Despite a bogey on No. 4, Jahns held on to a one-stroke lead he gained on a scorching four-birdie exploit at the back but misread a seven-foot putt for par at the finish for his own version of a 70, enabling Knox to keep abreast with the former at 141 heading to the last 36 holes of the $100,000 event bracing for a wild, wooly finish.
He left after signing his scorecard, which however showed the resiliency in the journeyman from United Kingdom, who battled back from a one-over card with three straight birdies from No. 3 then closed out with a birdie to negate his other bogey on the sixth.
Jahns, meanwhile, stayed a bit to assess his wobbly finish then said: “Overall, I played pretty well. The wind was quite strong at the back where I started but I was able to handle my game.”
Jhonnel Ababa, who shared the first day honors with Clyde Mondilla, Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Aussie Jack Lane-Weston with 69s, failed to handle his after going four-under overall with a second straight birdie on No. 17 as he bogeyed three of the first seven holes at the front and needed to birdie No. 8 from eight feet to scramble for a 73.
“The wind blew hard at the front (his backside),” rued Ababa, who vowed to strike back in the last two days with an attacking game as he steps up his drive for a record third straight championship in the event put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High as chief backers.
He slipped to joint third at 142 with a hot-charging Ira Alido, a steady Rupert Zaragosa and a defiant Lane-Weston, who blew a three-birdie binge after four holes at the back with three bogeys in the next four then closed out his frontside with a 37 also for a 73,
Alido, due for a breakthrough after a number of top five finishes last year, fought back from a 73 start with a solid backside 33 and went four-under in a punishing day with another birdie on No. 5. But like the rest of the bidders in the penultimate leg of the third second of the Philippine Golf Tour Asia, the 19-year-old former amateur hotshot bogeyed No. 8 and settled for a 69, while Zaragosa continued to defy the length, the bunkers and the undulating surface of Pradera with superb iron play and putting, producing a two-birdie, one-bogey round for a second 71 on a course that looked there for the taking for the long hitters but proved to be a virtual horror chamber for majority of the field for its length, bunkers and sleek putting surface.
“It’s like night and day, you get a good score at the back but you struggle at the front,” rued Jahns, whose shaky finish nevertheless gave the 24-year-old shotmaker another crack at a maiden win in seven years in the tour after a couple of runner-up finishes in Davao and at The Country Club Invitational last year.
“I’ll just seize the moment tomorrow (today), enjoy the game and make the most of my birdie chances,” he said.
A slew of others also stayed in the hunt, ensuring a spirited battle of wits in the last 36 holes with Marcos Pastor of Spain, Japanese Kei Matsuoka, and Filipino Dino Villanueva pooling identical 143s after 70, 71 and 73, respectively.
Mondilla and Van der Valk succumbed to the frontside riddle as the former limped with a 39 marred by a double-bogey on No. 5 and the latter tumbling down with a double-bogey on No. 2 and a triple-bogey on the fifth, as they both finished with 75s to fall to the 144 group that includes obscure Rico Depilo and Ryan Bonaobra, who shot 70 and 73, respectively, and Tony Lascuña, who built some kind of momentum for the crucial third round with closing back-to-back birdies at the back for a 71.
Fifty-five made the cut at 153 with legend Frankie Miñoza barely advancing with a 74, Venezuela’s Rafael Parra carding a 75, and Singapore’s Abiel Lim, Japanese Yuto Sudo and Nilo Salahog all fumbling with 76s.
Failing to advance were former PGTA leg winners Jay Bayron, who barely improved from a 78 with a 77 for a 155, and James Ryan Lam, who skied with a second 79 for a 158, and last year’s PGT Order of Merit winner Jobim Carlos, who shot himself in the foot with an 86 for a 165.