JHONNEL Ababa came up with a sizzling 65 in cool morning conditions and Angelo matched it with an eagle-aided seven-under par round to share the lead at the start of the $100,000 Aboitiz Invitational on Wednesday at Riviera’s Couples course in Silang, Cavite.
Ababa, enjoying top form following a breakthrough win on the Asean PGA Tour in Malaysia two weeks ago, had nines of 32-33.
Que flashed awesome putting touch all day, opening with a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 1 and burying an eagle-bid from 30 feet off a solid Hybrid 2 shot from 236 yards on the par-5 second hole.
“My putting was wonderful. I saw swing coach Bong Lopez before I went to Japan and we worked on my putting stroke again and it has been beneficial,” said Que, who tapped in for another birdie on No. 5 then rammed in back-to-back birdies from No. 7 inside six feet to make the turn at 30.
The former Philippine Open champion, however, cooled down at the back with just one birdie on No. 11 that proved enough to keep him in step with Ababa.
“I was very comfortable all day. Everything was falling into place,” said Ababa, who went on a slump after winning three legs on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour in 2011 but heralded his return to form with his two-shot win in Malaysia.
He hit eight birdies, including five on the front nine of the course softened and made longer by rain the past two days. He hit his lone bogey on the par-4 No. 4 where he made a poor pitch and failed to sink a six-footer for par.
Tony Lascuna came up with a 66 and Benjie Magada scored a 67.
“I didn’t expect to shoot under-par. But I hit solid drives and made superb approach shots in the last five holes,” said Magada, who sank a 12-footer on No. 14 to fuel his sizzling windup that put him in joint fourth with Thailand’s Poosit Supupramai and Pijit Petchkasem and American Casey O’Toole.
“It was pure luck,” added Ababa, who knocked down a four-footer on No. 15, made two putts for birdie on the par-5 16th before closing out with a pair of three-footers.
While Que leaned on his solid putting, Lascuna rued his four flubbed birdie chances inside eight feet that would’ve tied or given him the lead but thankful that his driving had held up to the challenge of the long layout that netted him six birdies.
“If not for those lip-outs, I would’ve easily made a 10-under. The ball just wouldn’t drop in,” said Lascuna.
Miguel Tabuena, the best-placed Filipino in the ADT Order of Merit at No. 15, shot a four-under 68 in a tie with American Brett Munson and Miguel Ochoa while unheralded Richard Abaring made a 69 for joint 11th with Swede Malcolm Kokocinski and veteran Asian Tour campaigner Mars Pucay.
Elmer Salvador, trying to become the first player to defend an ADT leg title three times, was already two-under at the back nine where he started but stumbled with a triple-bogey on the par-4 No. 1 after an errant approach shot from just around 100 yards. He scored a 73.
“I just made a bad shot and No. 10 but I think I’m still okay. There are still three rounds left,” said Salvador, who nipped Angelo Que by one to complete his back-to-back title romp in this event at the Cebu Country Club last year.
Jay Bayron had a 74, Scotland’s James Byrne came up with a 75 and Frankie Minoza scored a 77 in the Asian Development Tour event sponsored by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc., backed by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.