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Michael Bibat drilled in a bending 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th to lift his team-up with Miguel Ochoa to a thrilling 1-up victory over Elmer Salvador and Arnold Villacencio and punctuate Team North’s huge 4 1/2-1 1/2 victory over South in the opening fourball of The Duel – North vs South 4 Tuesday at Wack Wack Golf and Country’s Club’s East Course in Mandaluyong.

The last pairing was headed to an all-square ending after Salvador and Villacencio birdied No. 15 to draw level and after both teams traded pars in the next two holes. But Bibat, after checking the line of his putt on top of the hole twice, canned in that long downhiller.

“It was close all the way. They were up by two after 8 holes but we took the next two. Miguel birdied Nos. 13 and 14 but they also birdied Nos. 14 and 15,” said Bibat, a former Asian Games bronze medalist with one pro victory in 2013.

James Ryan Lam (left) shares his putting knowledge with North teammate Angelo Que on No. 2 in their clash with Tony Lascuña and Orlan Sumcad in The Duel 4 at Wack Wack.
James Ryan Lam (left) shares his putting knowledge with North teammate Angelo Que on No. 2 in their clash with Tony Lascuña and Orlan Sumcad in The Duel 4 at Wack Wack.

The win capped North’s solid first day performance that saw Angelo Que and James Ryan Lam nip Tony Lascuña and Orlan Sumcad, 1-up; Mars Pucay and Keanu Jahns overwhelm Cassius Casas and Ferdie Aunzo, 3&2; and Gerald Rosales and Jun Bernis clobber Jhonnel Ababa and Marvin Dumandan, 4&3, in the best-ball format of the event sponsored by ICTSI.

Cebuano Charles Hong and Clyde Mondilla delivered the lone win for the defending champions with a 3&2 romp over Miguel Tabuena and Benjie Magada while North’s Randy Garalde and Joenard Rates held brothers Rufino and Jay Bayron to an all-square match.

South’s Clyde Mondilla (foreground) and Charles Hong check the line of their putt on No.1 in their match up against Miguel Tabuena and Benjie Magada of Team North.
South’s Clyde Mondilla (foreground) and Charles Hong check the line of their putt on No.1 in their match up against Miguel Tabuena and Benjie Magada of Team North.

With a three-point cushion, the Northerners try to pad their lead in today’s foursomes (alternate shot) with Que teaming up with Pucay against Dumandan and Aunzo; Bibat and Bernis facing the Bayrons; Rosales and Jahns taking on Lascuña and Sumcad; Tabuena and Rates colliding with Hong and Ababa; Lam and Ochoa clashing with Casas and Mondilla; and Magada and Garalde mixing it up with Salvador and Villacencio.

“We didn’t expect to win since we’re the underdogs,” said Rosales, a former Philippine Open champion. “But we played our best and Jun’s game complemented well with mine.”

So did Pucay and Jahns, who settled down after No. 12, taking three of the next four holes to put away Casas and Aunzo’s challenge in the event backed by Nike Golf, Srixon, Callaway, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp.

“Keanu has a wonderful drive, which carries up to 300 yards and our short games made it perfect for us to score this win,” said Pucay.

South coach Jerome Delariarte took notice of their rivals’ solid start but vowed to strike back in today’s foursomes and keep it close heading to Thursday’s deciding singles, which features 12 matches.

“They had a very good start while we kind of started slow,” said Delariarte, who steered the team to a runaway 20-8 victory last year in Cebu. “We just look at playing better today and cut into their lead.”

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