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Que opens with 69

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Hounded by poor putting majority of the way, Angelo Que found his touch in time, leading to a birdie-binge at the finish for a three-under 69 and a share of 15th, five strokes behind Mikumu Horikawa at the start of the Casio World Open in Kochi, Japan yesterday.

Out to end a string of so-so finishes in his last Japan Golf Tour event this year, including a tied 31st effort in last week’s Dunlop Phoenix in Miyazaki, Que headed for another mediocre start with a birdie-bogey card after 12 holes.

But the three-time Asian Tour winner birdied the 13th then gained strokes on Nos. 15 and 16 to fashion out a 35-34 round at the Koshi Kuroshio Country Club, which yielded 63 under par scores in the face of the field’s torrid scoring in near-ideal conditions.

Que grappled with his putting stroke after closing out his Dunlop Phoenix stint with a 28-putt norm. He missed a couple of birdie chances at the front then three-putted for bogey on the 12th before finally finding his range and rhythm to dominate the last six holes with eight putts for a 31-putt showing.

Horikawa, who squandered a third round lead and ended up second in the Mynavi ABC Championship in Hyogo three weeks ago, leaned on a fiery backside charge of five birdies-in-row from No. 12 after a birdie-bogey start and went on to shoot three more birdies at the front that put him in control at eight-under 64.

But Korean Ye Yang came away with a solid 65 behind a five-birdie backside spree while Azuma Yano bogeyed the 17th for a 67 for a share of third with five others.

Meanwhile, Justin de los Santos flashed superb iron shots coming off a break after failing to advance in the ISPA Handa tournament in Ibaraki last month, birdying the par-3 second hole and the par-4 No. 4 to set his bid in motion.

Though he stumbled with a bogey on the eighth, he two-putted for birdie on the par-5 10th then recovered a stroke on No. 16 with a closing birdie.

With a 70, the Filipino-American shotmaker earned a share of 28th.

But while Que and de los Santos turned in impressive starts, Juvic Pagunsan, the only Filipino in next week’s JGT season-ending Nippon Series JT Cup in Tokyo by virtue of his victory in the Mizuno Open in Okayama last May, remained in a jam, groping for a two-over 74 and in danger of missing the 60-plus-ties cut for the four straight time at joint 96th in a field of 108.

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