RICK Gibson continued to stamp his class in the 2014 ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Qualifying School for foreign players, storming to a five-stroke lead despite a one-over 73 in windy condition on Thursday at the Aoko course of the Eagle Ridge golf complex in Gen. Trias, Cavite.
The Manila-based Canadian ace, a former Philippine Open winner and longtime standout on the Asian tour, seized control halfway through the 72-hole elims with a pair of 72s then leaned on a strong frontside charge of 35 to put together a 54-hole aggregate of one-over 217.
That was five shots ahead of Malcolm Kokocinski, who bucked a bogey-bogey start with birdies on Nos. 6 and 7 but like Gibson, the Swede fumbled with a 39 and ended up with a 76 for a 222 heading to the final 18 holes of the elims organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Japanese Ryoma Miki, who shared the first-round lead with Kokocinski at 71, rebounded from a disastrous 77 in the second round, his 75 moving him to third at 223 with American Eric Mina was a shot farther back at 224 after a 77.
Gibson, now the coach of several local players but eager to re-join the local circuit , birdied two of the first four holes in impressive fashion but stumbled with a bogey on the fifth and dropped strokes on Nos. 12, 13 and 18 against a birdie on No. 16.
Still, it was enough to move him closer to cinching the low medal honors and a berth in the upcoming ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour that will feature a record 18 legs, including four events offering a total of P3.5 million each.
The top 20 players after 72 holes will earn Tour cards with the battle for the last slot a toss-up among five players. Korean Mun Jae Hyung skied to an 84 but still clung on to No. 18 at 246 while Tony Guerrero of the US stood at 247 after a 79.
Honey Boy Pabonita, also of the US, and Korean Bong Jin Ho were tied at 248 after an 83 and 87, respectively, while Park Jin Hyeon, also of Korea, stayed in the hunt with a 251 after an 84.
Tipped to secure Tour berths are Swede CJ Stjarnfalt, who had a 228 for fifth after a 78; joint No. 6 Yuto Katsuragawa of Japan and Kim Chang Hoi of Korea, who had 231s after a 79 and 80, respectively; compatriots Cho Phil Kyu and Cho Byung Kyu, who carded a pair of 79s for 233s; and Park Kyoung Chun and Park Gyuha, who had 236s after similar 80s.
Lee Geun Woo, also of Korea, and Aussie Mark Varela, pooled a pair of 237s after an 82 and 86, respectively; Korean Kim Sun Woong made an 81 for a 238, and Koreans Nam Ji Soo and Park JS and American Elliot Hume carded 241s after a 78 and 83 and 79, respectively.