Jay Bayron used a strong start and a near-impeccable short game to wrest control then closed out with gutsy pars to churn out a bogey-free 69 and hold off a charging Gunn Charoenkul of Thailand and a resilient Clyde Mondilla in the third round of the ICTSI Orchard Golf Championship at the Orchard’s Player course in Dasmariñas, Cavite on Friday.
Bayron moved out of a three-way tie for second and into the lead in second-to-last flight with a birdie-birdie opening, took a two-stroke lead with another birdie on No. 11, all inside 10 feet, then fended off flightmate Charoenkul’s stirring eagle-finish with a slew of pars, including a couple of par-saves, to stay on top at seven-under 209.
Bracing for a shootout, the 38-year-old Bayron said he would need to shoot a 67 today to beat Charoenkul and Mondilla and check a so-so campaign in the season’s first four tournaments marred by a missed-cut stint at the Solaire Philippine Open.
“I have to score a five-under to win. I think that would be the winning score,” said Bayron, who won the Aboitiz Invitational and the Riviera Classic last year, barely making it a three with a one-shot loss to Elmer Salvador at Splendido.
Charoenkul, four behind Mondilla at the start of the round, rallied with three birdies in the last 12 holes capped by an eagle on the par-5 18th from six feet as the Thai threatened to spoil the local aces’ bid in the event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
With a 210, the 25-year-old Bangkok native tied Mondilla, who fought back from that double-bogey mishap with three birdies in a nine-hole stretch from No. 4 before surviving an up-and-down finish to save a 71, at second heading to the final 18 holes of the event serving as the second of a four-leg, month-long Philippine Golf Tour swing.
“I struggled with my putting and I need to rebound tomorrow (today) to win it,” said Mondilla, who won three tournaments last year to finish behind Tony Lascuña in the PGT Order of Merit derby.
Zanieboy Gialon, just one behind Mondilla after 36 holes, also faded with two bogeys in the first four holes and finished with a 73, dropping to solo fourth at 213, now four strokes off Bayron.
William Cannon of the US and another Thai Panuwat Muenlek pooled identical 214s for joint fifth with the former matching par 72s and the latter sustaining his big rebound from an opening 76 with a 68.
Lascuña also eagled the closing hole for a 71 but the reigning PGT Order of Merit winner remained too far behind at 215 and will perhaps need to match Miguel Tabuena’s stirring come-from-behind win at Luisita last week to gain a crack at the crown in the event backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.
Also assembling 215s are American John Catlin, Thai Kasidit Lepkurte and Elmer Salvador, tied with Bayron and Gialon at second halfway through but wavered with a 75 marred by bogeys in the last two holes.
Still, the chase for the top $10,500 purse could go down to a three-man battle with Bayron, Charoenkul and Mondilla bracing for a fierce showdown in what looms to be another thrilling finish the way Tabuena rallied from seven down in the last round and nipped South African Mathiam Keyser in sudden death to snare the Luisita Championship crown.
But Bayron is expected to use his experience and show his toughness in pressure-packed finishes the way he out-lasted Malaysian Gavin Green to win the Aboitiz crown by two and nipped Mondilla in playoff at Riviera.