BAGUIO – Manila Southwoods all but wrapped up its first Fil-Championship crown in five years as its gutsy crew still proved to be the best than the rest in a low scoring day at the Baguio Country Club yesterday, more than doubling its halfway lead to a whopping 30-point bulge on a 129 in the third round of the 65th San Miguel Fil-Am Invitational golf tournament Friday.
Justin Quiban, who keyed Southwoods’ 13-point lead at Camp John Hay with 41 and 38 in the first two rounds, slowed down with a two-over 63 worth 34 points but still spearheaded the team’s sustained charge that put the Carmona-based golfers way ahead at 415, 30 points clear of new pursuer Ventureslink-AAV Builders-Robros, which assembled a 121 for a 385.
Yuto Katsuragawa backed up Quiban with 33 points while Tonlits Asistio and Chepe Dulay added 31 apiece as veteran Jun Jun Plana made a 25 and failed to count in the five-to-play, four-to-count format event presented by San Miguel Corp.
San Miguel, which trailed Southwoods by 13 points at 273 after two rounds, struggled with a paltry 107 and dropped out of contention with a 380 heading to the final round of the annual event, also set at BCC.
Last year’s champion Mizuno Superstars put in a 128 to tie San Miguel at third while erstwhile contender Royal Northwoods also bowed out with a 374 after a 110.
Despite the huge lead, Southwoods team captain Thirdy Escaño warned his players of complacency and instead urged them to stay focused on the task at hand.
“I told them to focus and play their game the way they did in the first three days,” said Escaño, member of the last Southwoods champion team in 2009. “Yes, it’s a big lead but that’s no reason to celebrate yet. Of course it would be a great feeling if we win again.”
While the team championship is a cinch for Manila Southwoods, the battle for individual honors could go down to the final hole as national champion Rupert Zaragosa fired 35 points on a one-over 62 card for a 112 total to close in on Quiban, who had a 113.
Katsuragawa also stayed within striking distance at 107.
Ariel Villacencio shot a 33 while Ricar Cadinato and Raymund Gonzales tossed in 28 and 25 points, respectively, for Ventureslink.
Raymund Sangil shot the day’s best score of 37 for the Mizuno Superstars, who also drew 31 points from Justin Limjap and a pair of 30 points from King Stehmeier and Rodel Mangulabnan.
With former pro Eddie Bagtas struggling with a 26, San Miguel Corp. fell down the standing as Lanz Uy topscored with 28 points and JP De Claro and Ira Alido added a 27 and 26, respectively.