BAGUIO CITY – Jun Rates held off Frankie Miñoza and Jay Bayron with a bogey-free five-under-par 63 on Friday and moved 18 holes away from a breakthrough career victory with a two-stroke lead over Tony Lascuña in the ICTSI Camp John Hay Championship.
Ranged against two of the top players in the fold, Rates thrived under pressure with a flawless 33-30 card that gave him a 16-under 188 total after three rounds at the John Hay layout.
“Sana maka-breakthrough na. Matagal na akong naghahanap ng panalo, baka dito na mangyari,” said the 5-foot-3 Rates, whose best finish in a three-year pro career was third in this same course in 2012.
The Lipa, Batangas-based shotmaker flashed superb iron shots to set up birdies from as close as three feet on No. 2 with the farthest at 13 feet on No. 3. He also birdied Nos. 10 and 17 from six feet and No. 16 from 10 feet.
Bayron, the defending champion in this P2 million event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc., matched Rates’ three-under card after 10 holes and stayed within one. But he bogeyed No. 12 and needed to birdie the 18th from six feet to salvage a 65, dropping to third at 191.
Miñoza, who opened with a 61, groped for form and fumbled with three bogeys against just two birdies for a one-over 69, tumbling to solo fifth with a 195, seven shots behind.
But Rates will have a tougher final round rival in Lascuna, the reigning back-to-back Order of Merit winner who shot the day’s best seven-under 61 in ideal condition, spiked by a four-birdie binge from No. 6, for solo second at 190.
“Maganda nilalaro ni Joenard (Jun) kaya kailangan matapatan namin. Basta ako laban lang at medyo nakuha ko na ang rhythm sa putting stroke. Pag ganito pa rin bukas (today), me chance tayo,” said Lascuna.
Despite falling three shots off Rates, Bayron remains confident of his chances for a back-to-back title romp, both at John Hay and on the circuit after scoring a stirring come-from-behind win at ICTSI Splendido last week.
“Buhay pa rin ang chance for back-to-back. Kaya pa naman pero dapat sumabay sa mainit na laro ni Joenard,” said Bayron, the third player in the championship flight.
Fil-Am Carl Santos-Ocampo bucked a double-bogey mishap on a relatively easy par-5 No. 1 and a bogey on No. 12 with eight birdies, including four straight from No, 14, as he put in a 63 for fourth at 194.
Long-hitting Orlan Sumcad, who rallied with a 62 on Thursday, sustained his run with a 65 for solo sixth at 196.
Angelo Que, five down at the start of the day, fired a 67 for a tie for seventh at 197 with Miguel Tabuena (66), Jhonnel Ababa (67), Elmer Salvador (67) and Canadian Rick Gibson (67).
The rest of the 46 survivors stood too far behind to contend for the top P360,000 purse in the four-day championship backed by Nike Golf, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp and FootJoy and media partners Balls TV and ABS-CBN with Mhark Fernando bouncing back with a 65 to tie Anthony Fernando (68) and Swede Malcolm Kokocinski (67) at 12th at 198.
Mars Pucay rallied with a 64 to join Jessie Balasabas (67), Richard Abaring (68), Korean Gyuha Park (65) and Japanese Tomokazu Yoshinaga (66) at 199.