SILANG, Cavite – Angelo Que came out scorching with birdies and an eagle in one of the late afternoon flights and shot a bogey-free seven-under 65, catching an early-starting Jhonnel Ababa at the helm while Tony Lascuña likewise sizzled late with a flawless 66 as the local aces took charge in the opener of the $100,000 Aboitiz Invitational at Riviera’s Couples course here Wednesday.
On a day three-peat seeking Elmer Salvador fumbled with a 73 under preferred lies rules, Que flashed awesome putting touch all day, opening with a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 1 and burying an eagle-bid from 30 feet off a solid Hybrid 2 shot from 236 yards on the par-5 second hole.
“My putting was wonderful. I saw swing coach Bong Lopez before I went to Japan and we worked on my putting stroke again and it has been beneficial,” said Que, who tapped in for another birdie on No. 5 then rammed in back-to-back birdies from No. 7 inside six feet to make the turn at 30.
The former Philippine Open champion, however, cooled down at the back with just one birdie on No. 11 that proved enough to keep him in step with Ababa, who earlier slugged it out with Benjie Magada in a shootout to fire the first 65 in the 72-hole championship sponsored by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc.
Ababa, enjoying top form following a breakthrough win on the Asean PGA Tour in Malaysia two weeks ago, sustained a near-flawless stint for a 32-33 card and while Magada rallied with five straight birdies from No. 14 for a 67 (36-31).
Thai Pasamet Pogamnerd, the third player in the group that teed off in benign condition at 7:10 a.m., watched in awe as Ababa and Magada went on a birdie-binge, barely recovering from a two-bogey mishap after six holes with three birdies in the next 12 holes for a 71.
“I was very comfortable all day. Everything was falling into place,” said Ababa, who went on a slump after winning three legs on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour in 2011 but heralded his return to form with his two-shot win in Malaysia.
He hit eight birdies, including five on the dreaded frontside of the par-72 layout, softened and made longer by rain the past two days, negating his lone bogey miscue on the par-4 No. 4 where he made a poor pitch and failed to sink a six-footer for par.
Magada’s fiery finish came as a big surprise with the veteran shot maker, who last won in 2010 at Orchard, virtually resigned to a so-so opener after gunning down two birdies against a double-bogey and 10 pars.
“I didn’t expect to shoot under-par. But I hit solid drives and made superb approach shots in the last five holes,” said Magada, who sank a 12-footer on No. 14 to fuel his sizzling windup that put him in joint fourth with Thais Poosit Supupramai and Pijit Petchkasem and American Casey O’Toole, two shots off the hot-starting Ababa and Que.
“It was pure luck,” added Ababa, who knocked down a four-footer on No. 15, made two putts for birdie on the par-5 16th before closing out with a pair of three-footers.
While Que leaned on his solid putting, Lascuña, the reigning back-to-back ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion, rued his four flubbed birdie chances inside eight feet that would’ve tied or given him the lead but thankful that his driving had held up to the challenge of the long layout that netted him six birdies.
“If not for those lip-outs, I would’ve easily made a 10-under. The ball just wouldn’t drop in,” said Lascuña, who nevertheless was on target for his breakthrough win on the Asian Development Tour and fourth in this year’s local circuit sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Miguel Tabuena, the best-placed Filipino in the current ADT Order of Merit ranking at No. 15, shot a four-under 68 in a tie with American Brett Munson and Miguel Ochoa while unheralded Richard Abaring made a 69 for joint 11th with Swede Malcolm Kokocinski and veteran Asian Tour campaigner Mars Pucay.
Salvador, trying to become the first player to defend an ADT leg title three times, blew a two-under card at the back where he started as he stumbled with a triple-bogey on the par-4 No. 1 after an errant approach shot from just around 100 yards.
“I just made a bad shot and No. 10 but I think I’m still okay. There are still three rounds left,” said Salvador, who nipped Angelo Que by one to complete his back-to-back title romp in this event at the Cebu Country Club last year.
Other fancied bets likewise wavered with over par cards in the opener of the 72-hole championship backed by International Container Terminal Services, Inc., including ADT three-leg winner Jay Bayron, who made a 74, Scot James Byrne, winner of last week’s ADT leg in Jakarta, who hobbled with a 75, while Frankie Miñoza, the Philippine Open winner here in 1998, skied to a 77.
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