SILANG, Cavite – Jhonnel Ababa stumbled at the finish and settled for a one-under 70, barely hanging on a one-stroke clubhouse lead over Juvic Pagunsan and four others after the morning play in the ICTSI Riviera Golf Challenge here yesterday.
Starting out strong with three birdies in the first five holes, Ababa had thought he had the tight, hazard-laden Langer course all figured out but lost his touch when the going got tough in hot conditions, bogeying two of the last four for a 32-38.
With half of the 115-player starting field still to complete play at presstime, Ababa took the provisional lead, one ahead of Pagunsan, who failed to really get going on a course that suits his game.
In his rare stint on the PGTA, the smooth-swinging Pagunsan gunned down three birdies but fumbled with the same number of bogeys although the Japan PGA Tour campaigner and Asia’s former No. 1 is expected to press his bid in the second round of the $100,000 championship also serving as tune-up for the Solaire Philippine Open at The Country Club next week.
While Ababa wavered at the finish, reigning Philippine Masters titlist closed out with a 32 to more than make up for a horrible 39 start as he joined Pagunsan, veterans Elmer Salvador and Rolando Marabe and young Ira Alido at provisional second in the 72-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Dutch Guido Van der Valk matched par 71 for joint seventh with Hwang Myung Chal of Korea and Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia while Angelo Que, coming off a joint 25th finish in last week’s Maybank Championship, blew a one-under card after 13 holes with a bogey on No. 13 and a double bogey on the 18th for a 73, dropping to joint 10th with Ferdie Aunzo and Piya Swangarunporn and Chonlatit Chuenboonngam of Thailand.
Chuenboonngam actually turned in the best start of three straight birdies but, like Ababa, found the backside too tough and too tricky to overcome, limping with a 40.