BACOLOD City — Justin Quiban put his shot-making and putting skills on display against two unfancied rivals early on and nearly doubled his four-stroke lead with a solid 64 to wrap up the ICTSI Bacolod Golf Challenge crown Friday at the Bacolod Golf and Country Club here.
Four straight birdies from No. 2 put Quiban practically beyond reach at 14-under and the 22-year-old former amateur hotshot added two more birdies to complete a bogey-free round of 30-34 for a whopping seven-stroke bulge over Jay Bayron at 16-under 194.
It was his second straight six-under card at the tight par-70 Binitin layout, which he continued to dominate with solid driving and iron play.
And like in his maiden triumph at CAT Open of the Philippine Golf Tour Asia last December where he cruised to a three-stroke triumph after posting a five-shot lead in the third round, Quiban built another huge cushion in the pivotal day to virtually secure the title worth P450,000 in the first of the four-leg Visayan swing of the circuit put up by ICTSI.
“The hot start was part of my mindset today. I wanted to have this kind of score at the front nine to ease the pressure coming home and also to put the burden on those rallying behind,” said Quiban, who could’ve stretched his lead further if not for muffed birdie putts inside four feet on Nos. 13 and 15.
“I would’ve easily finished somewhere between 17- or 18-under. Of course, a bigger lead would’ve made it better and ease the pressure tomorrow,” he added.
Bayron spiked his third straight 67 with a chip-in eagle on the par-5 No. 15 but the PGTA Southwoods winner last month still stood too far behind at 201 with 18 holes to play in the P2.5 million tournament.
“With his huge lead, it would be tough to beat him (Quiban). He’s too good, and here at Binitin, it’s easy to recover from bad shots,” said Bayron, who nevertheless hopes to provide a different kind of pressure with Clyde Mondilla in the final group today.
Mondilla, the reigning PGT Order of Merit champion, also shot a 67 to seize solo third at 203 as erstwhile joint second running Johvanie Abaño and Jobim Carlos slowed down with a pair of 70s to drop to fourth with Tony Lascuña (69) and Dutch Guido Van der Valk (67) at 204.
“At least, I’m starting to get my feel (on the game) back, that’s the most important thing,” said Mondilla, who went on a slump with a number of missed cut stints this season after dominating last year’s edition of the annual circuit. “I just hope to turn in impressive finishes in this Visayan swing.”
Nilo Salahog actually closed to within three strokes with a birdie on the first hole but the opening round leader lost his poise and crumbled in the face of Quiban’s scorching charge from the second hole. He bogeyed four of the next 10 holes and limped with a 73 to tumbled to a share of 10th with Michael Bibat (67) and Paul Echave (69) at 207.
Arnold Villacencio, the other player in the featured group, fell farther back with five straight pars and completely lost in the mix with a bogey-bogey-double bogey-bogey windup at the front for a 40.
He hit three straight birdies from No. 12 but bogeyed two of the last four and wobbled with a 75 for 208 in a tie with Albin Engino and Rolando Marabe Jr., who both carded 69s.