MIGUEL Tabuena stayed on track for back-to-back titles, firing a four-under 68 on Thursday to take the solo lead after two rounds of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open at the Luisita Golf and Country Club.
Tabuena, in a three-way tie at the start of the day, stands at nine-under 135, one stroke ahead of Jhonnel Ababa, who carded a 69.
The 21-year-old Tabuena closed out the last five holes at the front in a bogey-birdie-par-bogey-birdie fashion, barely edging erstwhile co-leader Ababa, who shot a 69, for the lead at nine-under 135 with
Dutchman Guido Van der Valk was in third after firing a second straight 69.
Zanieboy Gialon, who shared the lead with Tabuena and Ababa in the first round, bogeyed two of the last three holes and wound up with a 73 for 140 with Mhark Fernando and Randy Garalde, who both shot 70s. Also at 140 was Keanu Jahns, who carded a 71, and American Micah Shin, who shot 69.
“My target is to birdie the par-5s but I need to hit it straight off the tee since the fairways are tight and one mishit could lead to trouble,” said Tabuena, winner at Wack Wack last week and current leader on the money list.
Ababa birdied three of the four par-5s and also made birdie on No. 1 to offset his bogey on No. 11.
Elmer Salvador had a 68 and stood six shots off the pace at 141 in a tie with Rene Menor, who shot a 70, and Japanese amateur Yuto Katsuragawa, who shot a 71.
Tony Lascuña, second on the money list, reeled farther back with wild driving and poor putting firing a three-over 75 for a 146 total, 11 shots off the pace.
Joining Lascuna in 20th place were Jay Bayron (75), Rodrigo Cuello (72), Marvin Dumandan (70), Reymon Jaraula (75), Koreans Anthony Kim (72) and Lee Hyun Woo (76), Rolando Marabe (74), Artemio Murakami (76), Mars Pucay (73) and Nilo Salahog (73).
Charles Hong, winner of the Luisita Championship in May, matched par 72 for a 147 in a tie with Cassius Casas, who stumbled with a 73, Erwin Arcillas (72), Jessie Balasabas (72), Chris delos Santos (73), Paul Echavez (74), Benjie Magada (74) and Orlan Sumcad (75) in the P2.5 million tournament sponsored by Central Azucarera de Tarlac and backed by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Callaway, Srixon, Mizuno, TaylorMade, Nike Golf, Sharp, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Rudy Project, Pacsports, Omnisource, Cleveland Golf, KZG, FootJoy, Silicon, Empire and Great Depot.