TARLAC – Jay Bayron kept his hot irons and putting going, producing a six-under 66 and staying on track for the elusive Philippine Golf Tour crown halfway through the ICTSI Luisita Invitational here yesterday.
With Luisita’s dreaded wind a virtual non-factor for the second straight day, Bayron cashed in on his early start and fired a five-birdie spree from No. 11 for a 35-31 card, wresting a two-stroke lead over Clyde Mondilla at 13-under 131.
The first day leader, whose bogey-free, record-setting 64 early Tuesday sparked hopes of a strong PGT finish for the reigning but winless Order of Merit champion, actually sustained his first round feat with a birdie-eagle start from No. 11 in one of the late tee-offs.
But Bayron hobbled with bogeys on Nos. 17 and 3 and needed to birdie two of the last five to save a 69 with the wind whipping up a bit late in the day.
That dropped the Del Monte ace to second at 133 even as flightmate Peter Stojanovski, who matched Bayron’s opening 65, stayed in the hunt with his own version of a three-under card for a 134.
“I’ve been playing great overall in near-perfect condition – my iron shots are solid and my putting is right on target,” said Bayron, one of the veteran campaigners out to avert a winless PGT campaign.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to play as good in the last two rounds,” added the former Order of Merit champion, who actually nailed a victory in the PGT Asia at Southwoods last June. His best finish at PGT was second to Justin Quiban in Bacolod last August.
Jhonnel Ababa, winner of the last PGT leg in Cebu last month, made his move with a solid 66 and grabbed solo fourth at 136, still five strokes behind Bayron heading to the last 36 holes of the P4 million championship capping the 10-stage PGT circuit put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
The rest of the 44 players who made the cut at two-over 146 stood too far behind, virtually reducing the battle for the top P750,000 purse among Bayron, Mondilla and Stojanovski with Ababa hoping to strike from behind with conditions expected to get tougher in the last two rounds.
“I’ve struggled a bit off the tee but overall, my game is okay. Just didn’t get the most of it,” said Mondilla, who racked up four victories last year but remained winless this season due to poor form.
Mondilla birdied the 11th from close range then hacked a solid 6-iron second shot from 200 yards to within nine feet for eagle on the next.