TITLE-HUNGRY Ferdie Aunzo salvaged an even-par 71 to snatch a one-stroke lead over Miguel Tabuena and Randy Garalde in a wild opening day of the US$60,000 ICTSI Eagle Ridge Invitational at Eagle Ridge’s Aoki course in Gen. Trias, Cavite on Wednesday.
Aunzo birdied the last two holes at sundown and found himself on top of the heap after Tabuena double-bogeyed the par-4 18th and Tony Lascuna blew a two-under card with four holes left and limped with a 74.
Tabuena and Lascuna’s late slip-up typified the field’s day-long struggle on a surprisingly tough Aoki layout until Aunzo rolled in a pin-length birdie putt on the 17th before finishing with a seven-footer to seize control of the 72-hole championship serving as the seventh leg of the ADT and third of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
Malaysian Arie Irawan, No. 2 in the current ADT Order of Merit ranking, carded a 73 to lead the two-over par scorers, who included Americans Greg Moss and Yoon Sejun, Scot Nick Redfern and Swede CJ Stjarnfalt and local bets Anthony Fernando, Rolando Marabe and Gerald Rosales.
Former ADT OOM champion Jay Bayron put in a pair of 37s to join a bunch at 74 that included Lascuna, Elmer Salvador, John Kier Abdon, Michael Bibat, Dante Becierra, Marvin Dumandan, Rey Pagunsan, Elmer Saban, American Micah Shin, Finland’s Janne Kasne, Koeran Lee Gyeongjun, Aussie Kevin Marques and Singapore’s Mitchell Slorach.
The Aoki layout, which played to a par 71 after the ADT converted No. 16 to a par-4 hole, bared its fangs early and yielded no under-par scores in the morning group with Moss, Englishman Redfern, Irawan and Fernando’s identical two-over 73s proving to be the best in tough conditions.
Three-time ADT winner Salvador blew a two-under card after three holes at the back with a spate of bogeys. He bogeyed Nos. 14 and 15 and made three straight bogeys from No. 18. He birdied the par-5 sixth but dropped another stroke on the tough No. 8 for a 38-36 card.
Like Salvador, Cassius Casas, winner of two events last year, including The Country Club Invitational, made a scorching start at the back, birdieing Nos. 11 and 12 but stumbled with a double bogey on No. 16 and lost his touch, rhythm and bearing at the front, making four bogeys without a birdie for a 40 and a 75.
ICTSI PGT Manila Masters winner Angelo Que birdied No. 11 but reeled back with bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16 then closed his backside stint with a double bogey. Worse, he dropped three strokes on the par-4 No. 1 but bounced back with birdies on the next two holes only to drop another stroke on No. 6 for a 77.