BACOLOD – Jobim Carlos and Kim Joo Hyung kept the top two spots at the end of the pivotal third round of the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic after identical two-under 68s but found the favorites closing in on them at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club.
Juvic Pagunsan finally found his groove at the Marapara layout, rattling off six birdies at the front for a day-best 65 that put him back in the hunt after a 69-70 start in the P3.5 million tournament put up by ICTSI.
Carlos, seeking a third crown in two months, also used a strong start of four birdies in the first eight holes to cushion the impact of his faltering finish (three bogeys in the last seven) as he grabbed the lead with a seven-under 203.
He stood just one shot ahead of Kim, whose bogey-free 68 and a 204 kept the 16-year-old find on course for a second crown after edging Carlos in the Pueblo de Oro Championship last month.
“I was happy to have walked away with the lead, given the tough backnine,” said Carlos, who quickly tied halfway leader Zanieboy Gialon with three straight birdies from No. 2. “It was a good thing I got off to a rousing start. Otherwise, I would’ve struggled all day.”
But looming large is Pagunsan, who missed joining Carlos at the helm with a second straight bogey on the par-3 13th, settling for joint second with Kim but earning a coveted spot in the championship flight.
“I was expecting to shoot 8- or 9-under but this is what was given. I’ll just try again tomorrow (today) where I expect to finish strong,” said Pagunsan, looking to mark his comeback on the Philippine Golf Tour with a victory right on the course where he nurtured his game.
Like majority of the surviving 43-player cast, Gialon floundered at the tougher backside of the par-70 layout, fumbling with two bogeys and dropping two strokes on the par-4 No. 14 to hobble home with a 73. Still, the PGT Calatagan leg winner last year didn’t stray too far behind with a three-day total of 205, just two shots off Carlos.
Jhonnel Ababa, winner of the PGT Asia Forest Hills leg last month, also bounced back into contention with a 66, moving to solo fifth with a 206 while longshot Dino Villanueva shot a 68 to wrest solo sixth at 207.
The rest could be too far off to pose a threat with Albin Engino, Elmer Salvador and American Pete Vilairatana all carding 69s for joint seventh at 208.