CARMONA, Cavite – Juvic Pagunsan and Pijit Petchkasem put on a pair of brilliant show of shotmaking and putting, churning out second straight bogey-free rounds with the Filipino star barely edging the Thai ace with a nine-under 62 for a one-stroke lead halfway through the Aboitiz Invitational here Thursday.
The smooth-swinging Pagunsan flaunted the form that made him the top player in Asia in 2011, coming through with near-flawless driving and impeccable iron shots that set up birdies from close range, the last two matching Petchkasem’s equally hot finish at the front for a 30 and an 11-under 131.
Petchkasem, one of seven who shared the first round lead with 66, fired another five-under card and stood just behind Pagunsan at 132 while Zanieboy Gialon took advantage of an early start and shot a 63 to share third place with Angelo Que, who bucked shaky putting at the back to turn in a bogey-less 67 for 133.
Erstwhile co-leader Janne Kaske of Finland rallied with four birdies at the front to save a 68 for solo fifth at 134 while Aussie Paul Donahoo and Japanese Masaru Takahashi lay a shot farther back at 135s with 66 and 69, respectively.
Malaysian Arie Irawat. Singapore’s Eugene Sim and Swede Malcolm Kokocinski, who also opened with 66s, slowed down with similar 70s and dropped to joint eighth at 136 with Ferdie Aunzo and Indian Himmat Rai, who carded identical 67s, Thai Nirun Sae-ueng, who made a 69, and Aussie Jake Stirling, who shot another 68.
Forty others made the top 50-plus ties cut at 142 with current local Order of Merit leader Miguel Tabuena barely pulling through with another 71 along with 10 others but ADT OOM pacesetter Hsieh Chi-hsien of Taiwan missed it by one despite a 69 for a 143.
Pagunsan, 37, actually kept a bogey-free round for the first 36 holes of this $100,000 event sponsored by Aboitiz Equity Ventures although his opening 69 proved to be mediocre by his own standards that put him in joint 24th in a low-scoring start Wednesday.
“I was actually hitting it really well since yesterday (first round). And I focused on hitting the greens and fairways,” said Pagunsan, who complemented his superb all-around game with awesome putting.
“My putting was great today (yesterday),” added Pagunsan, who made just 24 putts.
Though he rammed in four birdies at the front for a 32, Pagunsan hardly moved up to seventh as Gialon grabbed the clubhouse lead at nine-under 133 with that 63 with Que stalking Gialon with an opening 33.
But the three-time Asian Tour winner Que lost his putting touch at the back with just one birdie but remained upbeat of his crack at a first ADT win and the top $17,500 purse.
“I missed five birdie chances but it really happens,” rued Que, who nevertheless remained in the hunt at 133 with Gialon. “The nice thing about my poor putting is that I didn’t stray too far from the leader.”
Pagunsan went straight to the range after turning in his scorecard, priming up for a keenly awaited duel with Petchkasem in the last group today with Gialon hoping to spoil duo and fuel his own title bid in the event co-organized by Asian Development Tour and Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Jay Bayron shot a 70 to lead the 137 scorers at 15th with Aussie Mark Leich, American Sejun Yoo and Clyde Mondilla, who also carded 70s, Joenard Rates and Robert Pactolerin, who shot identical 69s while Anthony Fernando wavered with a 71 after a 67 to slid to a share of 21st with Greg Moss of the US, who made a 66, and Korean Lee Gyeongjun and Taiwanese Tommy Mou, who both had 68s.