ARNOLD Villacencio took a gamble on No. 4 and made an eagle, matching his opening four-under 66 and wresting a three-stroke lead over Michael Bibat and Tony Lascuña midway through the P1 million Negros Occidental Classic on Thursday at the Marapara layout in Bacolod.
Failing to hit a birdie in the first round, Villacencio took the risk again yesterday, cutting the dog-leg right 345-yard par-4 No. 6 with a monster drive that sailed over the trees then buried a 60-degree wedge shot from 50 yards for eagle.
Villacencio also hit three birdies against a missed-green bogey on No. 3 and moved to eight-under 132 total at the tough par-70 course.
“I hit the trees in the first round and settled for par but I knew I can cut it, so I tried again. I just got lucky,” said Villacencio, who had actually led a number of tournaments but blew them with final round fold-ups to remain winless in six years.
Bibat, meanwhile, pressed his bid for a second career victory by matching Villacencio’s 66, joining Lascuña in second at 135.
The former Asian Games bronze medallist birdied the first three holes for the second straight day then gunned down three more birdies against a bogey for a 31-35 card.
“I missed a par-putt from four feet on No. 11 but overall my I had a good feel of the greens,” said Bibat. “My target is to get to 10- or 11-under and beat the course.”
Lascuna, seeking a third leg win after topping the Eagle Ridge and Valley Golf events of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., fired a bogey-free 68.
“Three down is okay and we’ll find out tomorrow (today) what’s going to be like in the final round,” said Lascuna, also out to nail a record third straight Order of Merit crown on the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Overnight co-leader Elmer Salvador had a 70 and dropped to joint fourth at 136, while Jhonnel Ababa shot a 69 for solo fifth at 137.
Zanie Boy Gialon and Fil-Am Carl Santos-Ocampo carded identical 69s to tie Paul Echavez, matching par 70, at 139.
Amateur Lloyd Go sizzled with a 67 to join Mhark Fernando, who fired a 68, and Ferdie Aunzo, who hobbled with a 71, at 10th at 140, eight shots behind.
Villacencio birdied Nos. 1 and 4 to negate a bogey mishap on No. 3 then surged ahead with that eagle as Salvador had a roller-coaster round four flights ahead and made the turn at 35 in the tournament backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports, Srixon, FootJoy, It’s More Fun in the Philippines, Callaway, Mizuno, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Sharp and KZG with Balls, Pinoygolfer.com, Inquirer Golf and ABS-CBN Sports+Action as media partners.