Engino rallies with 69, ties Hong, Pacto at helm



SILANG, Cavite – Unheralded Albin Engino came out a two-hour delay due to lightning unruffled and fired three birdies coming home for a second straight two-under 69, grabbing a share of the lead with two others halfway through the $60,000 ICTSI Riviera Classic at Langer course here Thursday.

Engino came through with superb iron shots to set up birdies from close range at the front, hitting a four-footer on No. 2, a pin high on No. 5 and a tap-in on the seventh, turning a so-so 37 start at the back into a solid 69 for a rare view of the top at 138 with Cebuano Charles Hong and Robert Pactolerin.

Robert Pactolerin reacts after missing a birdie putt on No. 15.

India’s Shubhankar Sharma, meanwhile, had a running three-under card after 15 holes for a four-under aggregate when play was suspended due to darkness.

“The long break helped a lot since I became relaxed at resumption and got my putting going,” said Engino, who also produced an explosive windup of a five-under 31 at the back in the first round Wednesday.

Hong, who opened with an eagle and birdie in the first round but ended up with an even 71, struck back this time, putting in a rare flawless 67 in tough condition to put him in the title contention after dominating the local field at ICTSI Sherwood Hills Classic last month.

The ace Cebuano shotmaker blazed home with back-to-back birdies from No. 16 at dusk to cap his solid 34-33 card and force a four-way logjam in the four-day championship sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

But Engino and Hong will be as much tested as Pactolerin and Sharma in today’s pivotal round as the other fancied bets are expected to make their respective moves to gain a crack at the top $10,500 purse in Saturday’s final round.

Pactolerin also continued to dish out top form, gunning down a birdie on No. 5 to save another 69 while Sharma, 18, took the cudgels for the foreign bets with a 68 after erstwhile joint leaders Nils Floren of Sweden and England’s Grant Jackson, who shot 68s Wednesday, tumbled with similar 73s.

Thai Pavit Tangkamolprasert, ranked No. 5 on the ADT OOM with a runner-up and third place finishes in the first five legs of the ADT, both in Malaysia, shot a 67 to lead the 139 scorers who included England’s Peter Richardson and local bets Michael Bibat, Miguel Tabuena and Elmer Salvador while Rey Pagunsan stood a shot farther back at 140 after a second 70, guaranteeing a shootout in the final two rounds of the sixth leg of the ADT and the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.

Bibat, chasing a follow-up to his maiden win at ICTSI Palos Verdes last year, also rallied with a 33 at the front to salvage a 70, while Tabuena, due for a big win, likewise came out strong after the break, shooting four birdies after dropping a shot for the second straight day on No. 2 for a 68.

“I regrouped after play was stopped. I told myself to hang in there. Since I’m hitting it well, I went for the pins after the suspension since the greens became soft and that helped me,’ said Tabuena, who birdied Nos. 8, 10, 11 and 15 to get back into the thick of things.

Salvador, back-to-back Aboitiz Invitational champion, nailed four birdies against three bogeys to also stay in the hunt with a 70.

Jackson and Floren dropped to joint 11th at 141 along with Japan’s Tomokazu Yoshinaga, who carded 69, while Aussie Darren Tan and Elmer Saban submitted even par 142s after a pair of 71s.

Sixth six players made it to the final two rounds of the event backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports Phils. Inc., Srixon, Callaway, Mizuno, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp and KZG with Cassius Casas barely making the cut at 149 after a 75.

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