CARMONA, Cavite – Thai Pijit Petchkasem bucked the wind and the country’s two aces, extending his impressive bogey-free run to a third day with a four-under 67 and setting up a final round shootout with Juvic Pagunsan and Angelo Que for the Aboitiz Invitational crown at Manila Southwoods’ Legends course here Friday.
Petchkasem withstood Pagunsan’s sizzling five-birdie splurge from No. 5 and Que’s three-birdie binge in the last four holes and came in unruffled by the gusts that blew from all over throughout the day with that blemish-free 35-32 card.
That tied him with Pagunsan, who slowed with a 68 after a sizzling, lead-grabbing 62 Thursday, at the helm at 14-under 199 but Que matched Petchkasem’s 67 and pulled to within one at 200 as the troika kept their revered spots in the final group.
“I’m happy to be bogey-free. The winds were up and I could still manage to return an under par card. My tempo and short game have been working well all week, it’s been really good,” said Petchkasem, chasing his breakthrough win on the Asian Development Tour.
Although the two Filipino shotmakers have won on the Asian Tour – with Que winning three titles and Pagunsan romping off with the coveted Order of Merit crown in 2011, they too are seeking their first win on the ADT, thus guaranteeing a final day shootout for the top $17,500 purse in the event put up by Aboitiz Equity Ventures.
Still, the 28-year-old Thai, who fired two 66s to trail Pagunsan by one halfway through the 72-hole championship co-organized by ADT and Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., remained unfazed by his rivals’ credentials and upbeat of his chances.
“They’re among the best players on the Asian Tour but I think I have a chance tomorrow (today). I will need to concentrate on my own game and not be worried about them. Playing with them today was great as they are good company,” said Petchkasem, who birdied Nos. 6 and 9 inside seven feet then banged in a five-footer on No. 11 and tapped in for another on the 15th.
Pagunsan fumbled with his first bogey after 37 holes on the par-4 No. 2 but more than made up for this by stringing five straight birdies from No. 5 and threatening to pull away.
But he struggled a bit at the back, took his second bogey on No. 14 and settled for a run of pars for a 36 and a 68.
“I’m not so happy as I missed a lot of putts,” said Pagunsan, just in his second local tournament after a two-and-a-half-year absence. “I was misreading the greens but the good thing is that my ball striking has been good. I have 100 percent confidence about tomorrow (Saturday).”
Though he remained wary of the Thai, Pagunsan also considers Que a serious threat, citing his working knowledge of the shortened layout that continued to take a beating from the men of the tour.
“Pijit played good, especially when he was bogey free while we need to watch out for Angelo as he’s on his home course which is a big advantage for him,” said Pagunsan.
Two shots off Pagunsan midway through, Que hardly gained any headway with four birdies against two bogeys after 14 holes but closed out in style – three birdies in the last four – to shoot a second straight 67.
“I’m playing okay although my driving was a little bit off the mark. The wind was blowing all morning and it can be tricky out there,” said Que.
But the power-hitting shotmaker hopes to cash in on his superb putting and add the Aboitiz crown to his growing list of victories after winning the ICTSI Manila Masters and the ICTSI Anvaya Invitational of this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“I’ve been rolling the putts pretty well this week and the greens on the Legends course are perfect. I’m hoping to have a run at the title tomorrow (today),” said Que.
American Greg Moss shot the day’s best round of seven-under 64 to move three strokes off the joint leaders at 202 while Clyde Mondilla fired a 66 to tie Japanese Masaru Takahashi, who carded a 68, at 203.
Finland’s Janne Kaske also continued to waver after a 66 and 68, turning in a 70 to drop to solo seventh at 204 while inaugural Aboitiz Invitational champion Jay Bayron carded a 68 to for a five-way tie for eighth at 205 with compatriot Zanieboy Gialon, who hobbled with a one-over 72 after a 63, Aussie Paul Donahoo, who made a 70, India’s Himmat Rai, who shot a 69, and Thai Nirun Sae-ueng, who fired a second straight 69.
Last year’s runaway winner and reigning three-time PGT OOM winner Tony Lascuña bowed out of the title race with a so-so 70 and a 209 for a share of 25th with six others, 10 shots off Pagunsan and Petchkasem.