TARLAC – Canadian Lindsay Renolds, needing no less than a victory to salvage an Asian Tour card next year, fired a bogey-free six-under 66 that put him one stroke ahead on Miguel Tabuena, Korean Jeunghun Wang and two others at the start of the weather-shortened Philippine Open on Friday.
Phuket-based Canadian Renolds gunned down three birdies at the back where he teed off then added three more birdies at the front for a 33-33 he spiked with three scrambling pars on Nos. 1, 2 and 6.
Tabuena, who shot a 22-under card in ruling the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open here last September, shrugged off an opening bogey with a cluster of birdies – six in a 12-hole stretch from No. 5 – and put himself in early contention for the championship with a 35-32 card.
The 21-year-old local circuit’s reigning Order of Merit winner, battling a slight fever earlier in the week, preserved his spot at joint second by scrambling for pars in the last two holes.
“I can’t complain with my score considering my condition. I’m feeling much better which is good. I was very lucky play was called off yesterday because I got an extra rest day. I made most out of it,” said Tabuena. “I left a couple out of birdie putts so hopefully I can hole more putts tomorrow (today).”
Despite playing longer than its 7,045-yardage, the Luisita Golf and Country Club layout took a severe beating from the men of the tour under the lift, clean and place rule, with 52 breaking par and 15 others turning in even par cards in the $300,000 event serving as the final leg of this year’s Asian Tour.
Wang, who will represent Team Asia in the EurAsia Cup next year, shot six birdies but had one bogey on the par-5 No. 12 to settle for a tie with Tabuena, Chinnarat Phadungsil of Thailand and five-time Asian Tour winner Gaganjeet Bhullar of India.
Juvic Pagunsan also lived up to the hype as the 2011 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner fired a four-under 68 in his very first stint at Luisita to join the early charge of the local aces in the 54-hole event sponsored by the MVP Sports Foundation, Smart, PLDT, FIBR, Metro Pacific Investment Corp. (MPIC), Amon Trading, Central Azucarera de Tarlac and Ayala Land, Inc. with San Miguel Corp., Suntrust Properties and Sta. Lucia as hole sponsors.
“It was tough because it was my first time playing here,” said Pagunsan. “It was difficult to find the breaks on the greens. I didn’t play a practice round this week. I struggled a bit but my game is in good shape. I’m happy with the result. I really had to fight for my score.”
Johnrey Pactolerin, nephew of former Phl Open champion and many-time Philippine Masters winner Robert Pactolerin, made four birdies at the back to join Pagunsan in sixth along with Korean Giwhan Kim, former champion Mardan Mamat of Singapore and Englishman Simon Griffiths.
Seven players, including Aussie Scott Barr, Korean Seukhyun Baek and Ireland’s Niall Turner, fired three-under 69s while Jhonnel Ababa, Clyde Mondilla and Nilo Salahog carded identical 70s to lead 18 others in joint 18th.
Aussie Marcus Both, who won by two at Wack Wack last year, struggled with an even par 72 for joint 51st.
Other Filipinos in early contention are Charles Hong, a former winner here, who shot a 71; Orlan Sumcad, Tony Lascuña, Cassius Casas, Artemio Murakami and Keanu Jahns matched par 72s; while Michael Bibat, Arnold Villacencio, Elmer Salvador, Randy Garalde, Michael Alejandro and Frankie Minoza, who blew a two-under card with three straight bogeys from No. 15, turned in similar 73s.
Renolds, ranked 95th on the Order of Merit, is on a do-or-die mission to save his Asian Tour card for next year. The Canadian needs nothing less than a victory this week to break into the top-63 on the Order of Merit to retain his Tour card for 2016.
“It is a case of winning or going back to Qualifying School for me this week. I got nothing to lose this week. I’m trying to stay motivated and focused,” said the 29-year-old Renolds.