Benjie Magada came away with his best round in years – a bogey-free seven-under 65 that thrust him into the lead, three shots ahead of fancied Angelo Que and Elmer Salvador halfway through the P2 million ICTSI Splendido Classic in Tagaytay Friday.
Cashing in on his good form, Magada sizzled with three birdies in the first four holes and went on to hit all but one green, finishing with a 33-32 in sweltering heat and surging from joint ninth to the top of the heap at nine-under 135.
“All just fell into place – my ball-striking, iron play and putting,” said Magada, who pitched to within three feet on No. 5 for his lone up-and-down par in another low scoring day at Splendido Taal Golf Club.
He actually missed stringing three-straight birdies from No. 10 with a flubbed three-footer on the 12th but the wiry pro, who last won at Orchard in 2010, made up for the slip with back-to-back birdies from No. 16 to seize control of the star-studded field.
Que, also out to snap a long spell like Magada, rebounded from a shaky frontside stint of 37 with three birdies at the back, saving a two-under 70 for a share of second with Salvador, the Asian Development Tour Riviera Classic winner last year who turned in a bogey-free 69 for 138s.
Tony Lascuña slowed down with a 71 after a solid 68 but the reigning three-time Order of Merit winner remained in the title hunt, laying just four strokes behind at 139 in a tie with young gun Miguel Tabuena, who failed to sustain a blistering backside start of 32, highlighted by three straight birdies from No. 11, with a double-bogey 7 on the par-5 No. 2. He finished with a 69.
Defending champion Jay Bayron sputtered at the finish with two bogeys in the last four holes and wound up with a 72, dropping to joint sixth at 141 with Clyde Mondilla (69), Richard Abaring (68), Dutch Guido Van der Valk (71) and Korean qualifier Jung Yong Hun (70).
Japanese Toru Nakajima, who won the Wack Wack leg two years ago, shot a 70 to tie Randy Garalde, who fired a 69, at 142 while erstwhile leader Rufino Bayron, awesome with a 67 Wednesday, never recovered from a bogey-bogey start and limped home with a 76 for a 143.
Joining him at 13th are Ferdie Aunzo (70), Rico Depilo (76), Mars Pucay (69) and Korean Park Gyuha (71).