STA. ROSA, Laguna – Prom Meesawat carded a gutsy one-over-par 73 in morning play then watched three rivals briefly grab a piece of the lead only to reel back halfway through the 100th Solaire Philippine Open on Thursday.
Such is the drama and thrill on a day when the winds picked up and blew from different directions in the afternoon and a slew of names crowded Meesawat on top until the stocky Thai found himself all alone at 143 after another punishing round at The Country Club.
“I’m very happy with my round because this course is long and windy and tough for everybody. So I just have to be patient and try not to get into trouble. That’s the key for me,” said Meesawat, who actually holed out with a bogey on No. 9 for a 37-36 card but was spared of nature’s wrath that bedeviled the games of the other contenders in the record $600,000 event sponsored by Solaire Resort and Casino.
In what’s fast turning out to be a survival of the fittest at the long, treacherous Tom Weiskoph-designed layout – with only two breaking par with 71s, Dutch Guido Van der Valk, Aussie David Gleeson and local ace Miguel Tabuena joined Meewat at one-under overall in one stretch but tumbled with shaky finishes. Tony Lascuña and Jay Bayron also moved to within one midway through but also wobbled at the finish.
But American Nicolas Paez, a regular on the Philippine Golf Tour and PGT Asia, proved steadier than the rest of the afternoon pack, rebounding from a 38 start with a birdie on the 10th and an eagle on the par-5 14th, jumping from the middle to second at 144, just one off Meesawat, with a one-under 71.
“I’m very pleased with my round today (yesterday). To go under-par in the afternoon is quite a feat out here. I’m really happy to stick it out, grind it out,” said Paez, who split the No. 14 fairway with a monster 320-yard drive then hacked a 2-iron from 278 yards around 20 feet off the cup and knocked it down.
“I hit two perfect shots and perfect putt – that was clutch,” said Paez.
Tabuena, who shot a 73 in the first round, birdied No. 8 for the second straight day to salvage a 72 for joint third with Van der Valk, who blew an early two-under card and finished with a 72, at 145.
The 2015 champion at Luisita birdied the two par-5s at the back where he teed off to go one-under overall but fell behind again with three straight bogeys to start his frontside bid. But unlike Van der Valk and Gleeson, he bounced back with that late birdie to stay in the title hunt in Asia’s oldest National Open co-sanctioned by OneAsia and the National Golf Association of the Philippines.
Korean Kim Taehoon, just one off Meesawat and Mardan Mamat at the start of the day, fumbled with a 75 and slid to fifth at 146 while Aussie Andrew Campbell fired the other 71 to seize solo sixth at 147.
Bayron, who matched par in the first round, stayed within striking distance with a one-over total with six holes left. But he double bogeyed No. 4, dropped a stroke on No. 6 and bogeyed the last two holes against a birdie on the seventh. He ended up with a 77 and dropped to joint seventh at 149 with Colombia’s Alvaro Arizabaleta and Gleeson, who also limped with 77s, Lascuña (76), defending champion Steve Lewton (78), and Thais Panuwat Muenlek, Piya Swangarunporn and Pawin Ingkhapradit, who all carded 72s.