BACOLOD – Juvic Pagunsan dispatched James Ryan Lam and Pete Vilairatana despite slowing down in the heat with a 68 after back-to-back 66s but found a new challenger in Nilo Salahog as he chases a second straight championship in the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic.
Pagunsan said the rigors of playing two straight weeks in hot conditions while battling some personal woes have started to take its toll but Asia's former No. 1 still put in a decent round of three birdies against a bogey for a 32-36 card to hold on to a one-stroke edge at 10-under 200.
“I sort of lost my energy and aggressiveness after seven holes due to hot conditions but I still aimed for at least a two-under card,” said Pagunsan, who birdied the first two holes and No. 9 in exactly the same fashion he anchored his second round charge.
Unlike in his Thursday’s 66, however, the defending champion bogeyed No. 12 and settled for a 68 at the par-70 Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club.
“I think I’m tired,” said Pagunsan.
Chasing a maiden victory on the Philippine Golf Tour, Salahog hit five birdies in the first 13 hole, made bogey on No. 15 due to wrong club selection but came right back with a birdie on the next to shoot a day’s best 65 for a 201.
“This is my best game. Played so relaxed and inspired, hit all fairways and all but one green and made quite a number of one-putt feats,” said Salahog, who tied for 27th in Club Filipino de Cebu Invitational and shared 17th place in last week’s Bacolod Golf Classic of the Visayan swing of the circuit put up by ICTSI.
With a crack at a breakthrough win, Salahog hopes to buck the pressure playing alongside the fancied Pagunsan and the long-hitting Lam by staying focused on the task at hand.
“I will just have to concentrate although it would be tough to be playing against Pagunsan,” said the 33-year-old Victorias native and a pro at Eagle Ridge.
The rest will need to score in the low 60s to get a shot at the top P550,000 purse in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with Lam fumbling with four bogeys against three birdies for a 71 and dropping to third at 204, four shots off Pagunsan.
Vilairatana, just three strokes adrift of Pagunsan after 36 holes, blew an even par 35 start with three bogeys in the last eight holes, limping home with a 73 and falling to joint 10th at 208 with Reymon Jaraula (67), Richard Sinfuego (70), Gerald Rosales (70) and Club Filipino de Cebu Invitational winner Guido Van der Valk (70).