DIMINUTIVE Joenard Rates produced a tournament-best six-under 66 on Friday, grabbing a two-stroke lead over Tony Lascuña and Keanu Jahns as the erstwhile frontrunners faded in the third round of the ICTSI Philippine Masters at the Villamor Golf Club.
Making up for his lack of length with impeccable accuracy, the 5-foot-3 son of former pro Jose Rates finally put it all together with eight birdies to negate a two bogeys for a 32-34 card that fueled his surge from joint 10th to the top of the heap at eight-under 208.
“I didn’t expect to lead but I focused on hitting it on the fairway and then making the most of my approach shots and birdie chances,” said Rates after moving 18 holes away from snapping a three-year title-less spell in the Philippine Golf Tour sponsored by ICTSI.
But the very player he beat by three at John Hay in 2014 is right behind him as Lascuña bucked poor putting to card a 70 and tie Jahns, who blew an impressive frontside 31 with a closing 39 for a third straight two-under card, at 210.
That ensured another tight finish that has marked the last four staging of the circuit where the winner prevailed by just one with Miguel Tabuena nipping South African Mathiam Keyser in a playoff at Luisita.
Zanieboy Gialon also stayed in contention for the top P360,000 purse with a 69 as he tied American Nicolas Paez, who fired a 70, at 211, three shots adrift, while Clyde Mondilla dropped to sixth with a 73 but remained in the hunt at 212.
Aussie Nathan Park, who took charge by two halfway through the revival of one of the country’s four majors, held sway with a one-under card after 11 holes but tumbled with a bogey-double-bogey-double-bogey run from No. 14. He wound up with a 76 and fell to joint seventh with Jhonnel Ababa, who rallied with a 68, at 213.
First-round leader Jobim Carlos continued to flounder after an opening 69 and a 72, hobbling with a 74 marred by a run of four bogeys from No. 12, and slipped to a share of ninth with Ira Alido, who sizzled with a 67, at 214, six shots behind the new leader.
“If I can get the breaks tomorrow (today), I think I’ll have a chance,” said Rates, bracing for an uphill battle with the veteran Lascuña and the long-hitting Jahns.