CANLUBANG — Three-time champion Angelo Que had a fine start, faced trouble midway through the round but recovered in the closing holes to come up with a 68 and take a share of the lead with veteran Frankie Miñoza and young star Miguel Tabuena in Thursday’s opening round of the P5 million The Country Club Invitational at the TCC.
Que, winner in 2007, ’10 and ’11, birdied two of the first six holes to seize control but fumbled with back-to-back bogeys linking both nines before coming through with two birdies in the last four holes for a 34-34 card at the long par-70 wind-swept layout.
"It was not that great today (yesterday) but my putting was good, I hope to do better in the coming days," said Que.
Miñoza, who lost to defending champion Juvic Pagunsan in sudden death in the 2008 final, also went two-under after 14 holes but reeled back with a bogey on the 15th before matching Que’s birdie on the 17th and nines of 34-34.
"I just tried to go out there despite the harsh conditions," said the 51-year-old Miñoza.
Tabuena rebounded from a shaky one-over 36 with a 32 on the back nine, spiking his fiery windup with birdies on Nos. 13, 15 and 16, for that 68 that for a while stood as the day’s best until Que and Minoza matched the score.
"I don't need to be there (Q-School) but I still attended it to shake the rust of the holiday season," said Tabuena, a two-leg winner in last year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
Four players, including the fancied Pagunsan, stood just a shot behind with 69s, while one matched par 70 and three others turned in similar 71s in a wild first round action in the country’s premier golf event sponsored by ICTSI chair and CEO Ricky Razon in honor of his father ICTSI founder Enrique “Don Pocholo” Razon Sr.
Struggling in windy conditions were 2009 champion Artemio Murakami, who had an 82, and Asian Tour campaigner Mars Pucay, who had a 74.
Dottie Ardina also shot a 74 while ICTSI-TCC teammates Lovelynn Guioguio had a 75, Jayvie Agojo made a 76 and Cyna Rodriguez groped for a 77.
Pagunsan, also a three-time champion, recovered from bogeys on the par-5 No. 2 and the long par-4 No. 8 with three birdies in a 10-hole stretch then preserved his one-under card with clutch par putts in the closing holes.
Big-hitting Orlan Sumcad used his power to set up short iron shots that produced three straight birdies from No. 12, putting him alongside Pagunsan after going two-over in 10 holes.
Rufino Bayron, who as an amateur won a professional event five years ago, turned in the most impressive start from among the elite 37-player field as he birdied three of the first five holes in impressive fashion. But he bogeyed three of the next seven and needed another birdie on the 13th and a slew of pars to catch up with Pagunsan and Sumcad.
Jay Bayron, top money earner last year on the Asian Development Tour, made it a four-way tie for fourth as he birdied Nos. 16 and 17 for nines of 37-32 while Carl Santos-Ocampo was in solo eighth with an even 70.
Elmer Salvador also rallied with birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 to salvage a one-over 71 for a share of ninth spot with power hitters Rey Pagunsan and Clyde Mondilla.
Tony Lascuna, who topped the Philippine Golf Tour’s Order of Merit last season, double-bogeyed the finishing par-4 hole and tumbled with a 72, four shots off the pace.
“Just got unlucky on the final hole," said Lascuna, who miscalculated his approach shot against the wind on the hazard-laden 18th.
Others at two-over par were Ferdie Aunzo, Anthony Fernando and inaugural TCC Invitational champion Cassius Casas.