FRANKIE MIÑOZA flashed vintage form, submitting a tournament-best six-under 64 in severe conditions to jump from joint fifth to the top of the heap in the third round of P5 million The Country Club Invitational at the wind-blown TCC layout on Saturday in Canlubang, Laguna.
The two-time Philippine Open champion has a 54-hole total of five-under 205, four strokes ahead of former national hotshot Rufino Bayron who is seeking a breakthrough win on the pro tour in four years.
Bayron took over the challenger’s role with a gutsy 69 after hacking out tough pars in the closing holes for a 209 aggregate.
Juvic Pagunsan missed gaining ground on Miñoza with two bogeys in the last four holes and ended up with a 71 for a share of third spot with Cassius Casas, Clyde Mondilla and Jay Bayron at 212.
While the frontrunners fumbled and came tumbling down on a tough day, Miñoza flashed a fine all-around game to shoot down early birdies and wrest control then pulled away with a stirring three-birdie string from No. 12.
Miñoza, at 53 the most senior in the starting 37-player field, capped his day-long brilliance with birdie from four feet on the closing hole.
“I just played relaxed but what motivates me is that I haven’t won here. It’s a dream come true if I get it,” said Miñoza, who birdied three of the first five holes to negate his lone bogey on No. 6 and overhaul a three-stroke deficit.
Mondilla worked his way back with an impressive 68, Casas charged home with a 34 for a 72, while Jay Bayron also bogeyed the 18th for a 71.
Carl Santos-Ocampo also bogeyed two of the last four holes to settle for a 70 and solo seventh at 213 heading to the last 18 holes of the event put up by ICTSI chair and CEO Ricky Razon in honor of his father ICTSI founder Enrique “Don Pocholo” Razon Sr.
Angelo Que and Miguel Tabuena, joint leaders in the first two days, lost their poise and rhythm in the wind that blew from all over right at the mid-morning tee-off.
Que, a three-time winner of the event, wound up with a fat 8 at the par-4 No. 4 and limped home with a six-over 76.
For a while, Tabuena hung tough at one-over through eight holes only to fall apart with four more bogeys in the next seven holes, also ending up with a 76 as the duo slipped to joint eighth.
Tony Lascuna, the pre-tournament favorite, virtually kissed his title bid goodbye with a 70 for a 216, 11 shots off Minoza and in a tie with ICTSI-The Country Club team ace Dottie Ardina, who also matched par 70.
With a 216, Ardina took a four-shot lead over teammate Cyna Rodriguez, who also scored a 70. Last year’s low amateur Jayvie Agojo carded a 72 for a 224.