CAGAYAN DE ORO – Frankie Minoza rode the momentum of his sizzling win in Del Monte as he fired a five-under 67 on Wednesday to forge a share of the lead with unheralded Joenard Rates at the start of the P1 million ICTSI Pueblo de Oro Championship at the Pueblo de Oro layout.
Minoza, the two-time Philippine Open champion and former Asian Tour No. 1 who hit nine birdies to finish with a solid 63 and win last week’s ICTSI Del Monte leg crown by five shots, made six more birdies against one bogey to set himself up for back-to-back titles.
He found an unlikely co-leader in Rates, whose bogey-free card kept him ahead of tour big guns Tony Lascuna, Elmer Salvador, Mars Pucay and Rufino Bayron, who all shot 68s.
Jay Bayron, Benjie Magada, Arnold Villacencio and Angelo Que were another shot back after shooting 69s, while Marvin Dumanda, James Ryan Lam, Carl Santos-Ocampo, Gerald Rosales and defending champion Charles Hong carded 71 each.
“I didn’t expect to shoot this low. I just played relaxed and made birdies,” said Rates.
Languishing at No. 50 in the Order of Merit ranking with three missed cut stints in the first six legs of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, Rates missed just one fairway and hit 16 greens, five of which he turned into birdies inside 10 feet.
Salvador, winner of Tuesday’s pro-am tournament, and Lascuna, the runaway champion at ICTSI Calatagan, came away with five birdies and one bogey each as they shared third place with Pucay and Rufino Bayron, who fired their own versions of 68s in late afternoon.
Pucay, who last won in the Iloilo leg last year, highlighted his four-under card with an eagle on No. 17 and two birdies in the last four holes at the front while Rufino Bayron, still in search of his maiden pro victory after winning a pro tournament as an amateur in 2009, closed out with a 33 at the front to put himself in early contention.
Jay Bayron, seeking a follow-up to his come-from-behind win at ICTSI John Hay, also stood at five-under with five birdies in an eight-hole stretch bridging the nines from the back but stumbled with three straight bogeys from No. 4, needing to birdie the seventh to join Que and Magada at seventh.
The 54-hole event is backed by Nike Golf, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, Mizuno, Titleist, Srixon, Foot Joy, Callaway, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers, Cleveland Golf and Sharp.