LIPA City, Batangas – Dino Villanueva went on a birdie-spree at the back early and held sway to the finish, producing a six-under 66 and gaining solo control by three over a late-charging Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia and Elmer Salvador halfway through the Summit Point World 18 Challenge here yesterday.
The 34-year-old journeyman from Cagayan de Oro ran off four straight birdies from No. 10 to keep the momentum of his lead-sharing 67 fashioned out in harsh conditions in afternoon play Wednesday. He traded two birdies with the same number of bogeys in the next eight holes then capped his 34-32 card with birdies in the last two par-5s in near-ideal conditions at the Summit Point Golf Club.
“Nothing special but I hit my wedge shots pretty solid,” said Villanueva, who moved 36 holes away from finally nailing the elusive win in an 11-year pro career with an 11-under 133 total.
He stood three strokes clear off Salvador, who birdied four of the last six holes at the back to shoot a second 68 for a 136, which Stojanovski matched in one of the late flights behind a bogey-free, tournament-best 65, while Janne Kaske of Finland matched Villanueva’s six-under card for fourth at 137.
“But I need to toughen up in the last two days to clinch it. A victory will really make our Christmas happy,” added Villanueva, whose solid wedge shots set up birdie putts inside four feet in the first four holes. He banged in another on No. 16 then overcame a bogey-bogey mishap linking both nines with birdies on Nos. 2 and 5 before tapping in on the ninth after missing an eagle-putt from 20 feet off a 4-iron shot from 239 yards.
Joenard Rates, virtually out of the loop with a 72 start, got back into the groove with a stirring seven-birdie spree from No. 12. But after hitting his eighth birdie on No. 4, the diminutive shotmaker reeled back with back-to-back bogeys from No. 7, finishing with a 67 and dropping to joint fifth at 139 with Aussie Nathan Park, who also shot a 67, Jeremy Wendelken of the US (68), Micah Shin (69), Jobim Carlos (70) and first day co-leaders Erwin Arcillas and Thai Sutijet Kooratanapisan, who slowed down with 72s after a pair of 67s.
Anthony Fernando, Nilo Salahog and Taiwanese Wang Tsung Chieh all shot 69s while former PGTA winner Justin Quiban carded a 70 as they shared 12th place at 140 while Tony Lascuña blew a six-under card with three straight bogeys from No. 6 coming home, settling for a 69 for joint 16th at 141 with Aussie Jack Sullivan (67), Japanese Taisei Mochita (68), recent Luisita Invitational winner Clyde Mondilla (69) and Arnold Villacencio (70).
Last week’s first time PGT Asia winner in the CAT Open James Ryan Lam recovered from a 77 start with a 70 and barely made the cut at 147 with Englishman Joe Knox (71), Jun Bernis (73), Aussie Simon Vitakangas (73) and American Lexus Keoninh (77).
But PGT Asia Southwoods leg winner Jay Bayron failed to break par for the second straight time, wobbling with a 75 and missing the cut by two with a 149 total. Others who failed to advance were former PGTA winner Rene Menor (75-148), reigning Phl Masters champion Jerson Balasabas (70-149) and former PGT leg titlist Zanieboy Gialon (73-150).
Salvador, out to make up for his final round collapse in the CAT Open at Luisita last week, snapped out of a so-so round after 12 holes with a birdie on No. 13 then closed out with three straight birdies from No. 15 to assume the challenger’s role.
Like Villanueva, Kaske brandished a new putter and pressed his bid early with a long 25-foot eagle putt on No. 3 off a 6-iron second shot from 200 yards and three birdies against a bogey for a 32. He then birdied three of the last five holes to negate his other bogey on the 17th for a 32-34 card, putting him in title contention after missing the cut at PGT Asia Forest Hills.
“I changed my putter and it clicked. The wind picked up a bit at the back but I was able to hold on,” said the Helsinki native, who birdied the other four par-5s.