JAPAN’S Toru Nakajima overcame strong winds to shoot a three-under 69 and grab a one-stroke lead in the first round of the P2.5 million ICTSI Wack Wack Championship on Thursday at Wack Wack’s East Course.
Nakajima birdied Nos. 16, suffered a missed-green bogey on the 17th, but recovered with another birdie on the closing hole to take charge in the finale of the 15-stage series sponsored by ICTSI.
"Tough course, tough conditions," said Nakajima. "Those birdies saved me in the end."
Mars Pucay and Ferdie Aunzo, who started at No. 10 in separate flights, actually led Nakajima heading to the final three holes but both faltered and settled for 70s.
Pucay was three under heading to the final hole but finished with a bogey.
Aunzo reeled back as early as two holes before, with a bogey on No. 7.
The frontrunners complained of strong winds that blew from all over at mid-noon, forcing them to adjust their club selections.
"I was doing great, teeing off well and hitting the greens before that final hole. The mud on the ball on my second shot really got me," said Pucay. "It's also probably the wind, which really blew harder in the last five holes."
He flubbed three straight birdie chances from No. 6 inside seven feet.
"I had my chances but I just couldn't convert it,” said Pucay, the former national champion and veteran of the Asian Tour. “We'll see in the next few days where I hope to just score red numbers for me to have a chance at winning this leg."
Mhark Fernando, whose game somewhat took a dip after winning the Riviera Classic last month, scored a one-under 71 and for solo fourth place.
James Ryan Lam, Elmer Saban and Korea’s Micah Shin scored 72, while Aboitiz Invitational winner Elmer Salvador, Canlubang leg champion Cassius Casas, Gerald Rosales and Benjie Magada turned in similar 73s.
Jay Bayron, winner at John Hay, scored a 74 that was matched by Zanie Boy Gialon, Orlan Sumcad and Jun Rates.
Miguel Tabuena had a 77 and was in joint 29th in the tournament backed by Nike Golf, Srixon, Custom Clubmakers, Pacsports, Cleveland Golf, Callaway, Ping, Mizuno, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, FootJoy, Titleist, Sharp, BMW and Gergia Energy Foods.
The 19-year-old runaway winner at Sherwood failed to get going with three bogeys and a double bogey in a birdie-less frontside stint, nailed back-to-back birdies from No. 12, only to fall behind again with a 5 on the par-3 No. 16.