Miñoza takes solo lead

photograph by Joey Sanchez Mendoza for the Daily Tribune @tribunephl_joey Frankie Miñoza feels a lot of things can still happen with two rounds left in the ICTSI Negros Occidental Golf Classic.

BACOLOD CITY — Frankie Miñoza kept on dishing out vintage performances even when his rivals — a blend of young and old — hobbled in blustery conditions and tough greens Thursday, coming away with a one-under 69 to wrest a three-stroke lead over erstwhile co-leader Albin Engino halfway through the ICTSI Negros Occidental Golf Classic.

Two birdies in a solid frontside windup enabled the former Asia’s No. 1 to overcome a shaky backside 36 and buck the wind that bedeviled the games of majority of his pursuers, leaving him as the only player from the starting field of 66 to put in back-to-back under-par rounds at the challenging Marapara course.

“Like in the first round, I played very good, driving almost perfect. My irons are good and though my putting was not as good, it was acceptable,” said Miñoza, who was as surprised as the rest of the stellar cast to be on top of the heap with a 137 aggregate he spiked with a first round 68.

After birdying No. 10 where he teed off, Miñoza failed to get up and down on No. 13 then three-putted the 17th from 25 feet, flubbing a six-footer for par. But he tapped in for birdie on the par-5 No. 2 and drained a 25-footer for another birdie on the fourth then parred the rest for a 33.

But two fine rounds do not make a champion golfer, and Miñoza, 62, knows fully well that it would take him more than superb shotmaking and putting to end a long title spell in a checkered pro career.

“Fatigue will be a big factor, I’m getting old. There are still two more days, so I can’t talk about my chances,” said Miñoza, who edged Miguel Tabuena in sudden death here to nail his last victory in 2016.

“But I’ll do my best — hit the ball good and be patient — and let’s see what happens.”

Don Petil actually tried to make things happen, threatening to grab the lead with a sterling four-under card after 15 holes in the heat and wind.

But like the other pursuers, the 29-year-old shotmaker, who turned pro last October, cracked when the going got tougher, closing out with a disastrous bogey-double bogey-bogey finish.

“When I looked at my scorecard (4-under), I thought I could still go lower with three holes to play. But I hit the greenside bunker on my tee-shot on No. 16 (par-3) and missed a par-saving putt from 8 feet,” Petil said.
After hitting the fairway on the par-4 17th, he shanked his approach shot from 160 yards and overshot the green from the rough. He chipped and two-putted for 6 then missed the par-5 18th green, hit his fourth shot way past the hole and ended up with another bogey.

“The course is in good condition. It just went bad in the last 3 holes,” added Petil, who settled for a 70 and tumbled from second to joint 10th at 142, five strokes behind Miñoza in the P2.25 million event put up by ICTSI.

Engino also reeled back with a frontside 38 marred by poor putting but he recovered with two birdies against a bogey in the last seven holes to salvage a 72 and lift him back to second at 140.

“I missed a number of putts from putter-, driver- and pin-length distances. But I worked hard at the back so I was able to salvage a two-over round,” said Engino, whose campaign is backed by Col. Paul Carpio.

“But I’d still go for conservative play tomorrow (today), but if I get the chance to attack, I’ll take the risk. I just have to work on my pitch-and-putt game and putting.”

A mix of players made it a seven-way logjam at third at 141, led by veteran Jay Bayron and recent qualifier Carlos Packing, who fired identical 68s, while Dino Villanueva blew an eagle-spiked four-under card after five holes with a bogey-riddled backside 39 and ended up with a 70.

“I had a hard time reading (the speed of) the greens at the back nine and I somewhat felt comfortable,” rued Villanueva, who birdied the first hole, hit a solid Hybrid shot from 228 yards on No. 2 to within 10 feet and made the putt for eagle, then gained another stroke on No. 5 for a frontside 31 that tied him with Miñoza, who birdied No. 10, at three-under overall.

Other with one-over par outputs were Jhonnel Ababa, who birdied the ninth to likewise save a 70, Rupert Zaragosa and Nilo Salahog, who matched 71s, and Ira Alido, who rebounded from a horrendous backside 40 with four birdies against a bogey in the last nine holes for a 72.

The other big guns also safely made the Top 40 and ties cut at 149 with Clyde Mondilla and Rico Depilo battling back from a pair of 74s with 68s to tie Anthony Fernando (70), Tony Lascuna (72), Ferdie Aunzo, Jun Bernis (72) and Petil at 142, while Art Arbole carded a 71 for a 143, and Richard Sinfuego and The Country Club Invitational runaway winner Guido van der Valk rallied with 68 and 69, respectively, for joint 18th at 144 with Zanieboy Gialon and Reymon Jaraula, who shot 72 and 74, respectively.

Meanwhile, PGT Q-School topnotcher Hyun Ho Rho, who fashioned out an impressive 69 for joint third after 18 holes, barely made the cut at 149 as he fumbled with an 80 marred by a quadruple bogey on the par-5 second hole.

Failing to advance in the kickoff leg of this year’s Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.-organized circuit were Elmer Salvador (72-150), Arnold Villacencio (75-150), Orlan Sumcad (74-151), former Order of Merit champion Jobim Carlos (74-152), and rookie pros Gab Manotoc (72-151), Elee Bisera (79-153), and Kristoffer Arevalo (71-155).

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