Joenard Rates and Jobim Carlos matched birdie-birdie finishes on opposite nines for 71s as they kept their spots on top, one stroke ahead of erstwhile co-leader Jerson Balasabas halfway through P3 million ICTSI Villamor Philippine Masters at the Villamor Golf Club yesterday.
The diminutive Rates turned from erratic to splendid, rebounding from a three-over card after seven holes with four birdies in the next six,
including three straight from No. 11. He then recovered from a double-bogey mishap on No. 16 with closing birdies to save a 38-33 card on a tight layout that puts premium on driving.
In a separate flight at the back, Carlos also struggled with three bogeys against two birdies but the recent winner of the National Pro-am with DJ Padilla gunned down a second straight birdie on No. 4 and holed out with back-to-back birdies to negate a bogey on the par-3 seventh for a 34-37.
With 138 aggregates, the duo stayed on top for the second straight day but braced for a spirited charge from the rest of their pursuers in the last two rounds of the 72-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI, including Balasabas, who struggled off the mound and missed keeping his spot at the top with a last-hole mishap on No. 9 for a 72 and a 139.
“I have to find a way to be consistent off the tee. Made bad drives, especially at the back and the wind later affected my game in the last nine,” said Carlos, who with the rest of the surviving 44-player field headed straight to the range to tinker with their driving.
“I missed a lot of my tee shots but my putting worked so I’m still at it,” said Balasabas, who vowed to strike back in today’s third round, particularly on the par-5 holes.
Rene Menor, a former PGT Asia leg winner, and Gerald Rosales, a former champion of an all-local Philippine Open, assembled identical 141s after a 70 and 71, respectively, for joint fourth while veteran and multi-titled Jay Bayron bogeyed two of the last three holes at the front for a 73 and dropped to a share of sixth with Jhonnel Ababa (70) and Albin Engino (74) at 142.
Orlan Sumcad, the other player in the four-man lead pack after 18 holes of the fabled event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., failed to recover from a bogey-double bogey-bogey misfortune from No. 12 and hobbled with a 76, tumbling to joint ninth with Anthony Fernando and Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who both fired 71s, at 143, now five strokes behind the joint leaders.
The other pre-tournament favorites also stood too far behind with mediocre rounds despite calm condition in the afternoon as the tight, hazard laden military layout held its ground and yielded just 13 under-par scores for the second straight day.
Rates, who tied for 10th in last year’s revival of what used to be one of local version’s four majors won by Clyde Mondilla, looked headed for a flop after bogeying Nos. 1, 3 and 7 on a three-putt and missed greens. But he birdied the par-5 eighth then strung up three straight from No. 11 to wheel back into contention.
He reeled back again after dropping two strokes on the tough par-4 16th but birdied the last two to put himself back in the hunt for the top P550,000 purse in the event backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.
Forty-four players moved into the final 36 holes with Jun Bernis (78), Raymung Gonzales (75), Edward Reyes (77), Dino Villanueva (74) and Macedonian Peter Stojanovski (72) all surviving the cut at 151.
Among the notables who failed to make the grade in the event
were Ira Alido (74-152), Erwin Arcillas (75-152), Rufino Bayron (79-153), Canadian Lindsay Renolds (79-153), Ferdie Aunzo (80-155) and Zanieboy Gialon (78-160).