SAN RAFAEL, Bulacan – Zanie Boy Gialon mastered Royal Northwoods’ backside with another solid 33 and went on to fire a 68 and pull away by three, this time over Mhark Fernando halfway through the P1.5 million ICTSI Royal Northwoods Championship here Thursday.
Gialon’s hot start at the back matched his fiery windup for a 66 that put him two strokes ahead of Rufino Bayron and Micah Shin Wednesday and it cushioned the impact of his roller-coaster finish of three birdies and two bogeys that kept him on top of the heap at 10-under 134.
But while Bayron, winner of the ICTSI Orchard Championship last June, and Shin, runner-up to Charles Hong at ICTSI Sherwood Hills last April, reeled back with 71 and 72, respectively, in tough, muddy condition, Gialon sustained his form, flashing superb putting to move 36 holes away from snapping a two-year title spell in the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
“My putting has been wonderful the first two days. It was muddy out there but it hardly bothered me,” said Gialon, who had a grand rookie season in 2012 with two victories but went on a slump with so-so finishes since last year.
He birdied No. 14 from 14 feet, rolled in another from four feet on the next then drilled in a 12-footer on the 17th for that 33. He birdied the par-3 No. 3 for the second straight day to go four-under but dropped a stroke on the next, hit back-to-back birdies from No. 6 but failed to return a par-saving putt from seven feet on the eighth.
Fernando also moved into contention for the top P270,000 purse in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., shooting a bogey-free five-under 67 for a 137 while Cebuano Hong stepped up his bid for a second title this year by birdying three of the last seven holes at the back to fire a second 69 and tie Elmer Saban at 138.
Saban, who pulled off a surprise win at ICTSI Splendido last year, actually sizzled with a six-under card after 17 holes but hit an errant drive on No. 18 and muffed an eight-footer for par after missing the green and settled for a 67.
Unlike Gialon and despite his five-birdie splurge, Fernando said he failed to take advantage of the receptive greens, flubbing at least five birdie chances which he said could’ve given him at least a share of the lead.
“The greens are biting, so it is easier to get birdie opportunities. Too bad, I missed some, including a six-footer on the 18th,” said Fernando, also seeking his first crown since winning at ICTSI Riviera last year.
Bayron, impressive with a 68 Wednesday, slowed down with a 71 on a three-birdie, two-bogey stint and dropped to fifth at 139, five shots adrift, while Ferdie Aunzo, winner of the inaugural staging of this event in 2009, also carded a 71 to slid to joint sixth at 140 with Arnold Villacencio and Omar Dungca, who both shot 69s, and Shin.
Christopher delos Santos made a scorching start of three birdies in row from No. 3 but finished with three bogeys and no birdie to show in the last 13 holes for a 72 and a 141 in a tie with Rolando Marabe, who rebounded with a 69 after a 72.
Gyuha Park shot the day’s best of 66, capped by birdies in the last three holes as the Korean bet jumped from out of nowhere to joint 12th at 142 which includes Benjie Magada, who carded a 71, Jun Rates, who matched par 72, and Jhonnel Ababa and Jessie Balasabas, who made similar 73s.
The event, serving as the 13th leg of the 16-stage circuit, is backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports Phils. Inc., Srixon, Callaway, Mizuno, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp and KZG with ABS-CBN Sports & Action, Balls and Inquirer Golf as media partners.
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