RUPERT Zaragosa went on an early birdie-binge, carding a 69 for a one-stroke lead after the second round of the ICTSI Riviera Invitational Challenge on Wednesday at the Couples course in Silang, Cavite.
Zaragosa came up with superb shotmaking and putting for nines of 34-35 for a 141 total.
“I hit it pretty good off the mound and got some good lies for approach shots,” said Zaragosa, whose opening 72 was marred by a double-bogey on No. 11, a par-5 hole which he birdied in the second round to storm ahead of the compact field in pro golf’s resumption after an eight-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Expecting to see the big guns make their moves in the next two rounds, the 23-year-old Zaragosa stressed the need to play it smart to gain a shot at a first pro crown after a missed chance in January when he lost in a five-man playoff in the PGT Asia Pradera Verde.
“I’ll just go for the fairways and greens, minimize my mistakes and make the most of my chances,” said the former many-time national champion, one of the very few who are playing with a caddie – he has coach-father Boyet on the bag.
After an impressive opening 69 in the Tour’s return in new normal, where the pros do away with the caddies and abide by the strict health and safety protocols, including wearing of face masks on the course, Joenard Rates fumbled with back-to-back bogeys on the closing holes for a 73.
Rates has a 142 total, tied with Fidel Concepcion and Rico Depilo, who fired 68 and 71, respectively, as the fancied bets continued to figure out the course while trying to recover from the effects of a long layoff since mid-March.
While Zaragosa banked on a solid start to seize control, Concepcion turned in a late charge.
Concepcion, a former Southern Utah University standout who placed 15th in the Order of Merit in his PGT debut last year, hit two birdies in the first 11 holes then bounced back from a bogey misfortune on No. 12 with three straight birdies from No. 13 for a 35-33.
Depilo, meanwhile, matched his opening round 71, hitting eagle on No. 7, a feat he also did on No. 16 on Tuesday.
Behind them is a group of seasoned campaigners ready to pounce, led by Dutchman Guido Van der Valk, the last player to win a PGT title in The Country Club Invitational before the global health crisis disrupted play in all sports.
Van der Valk had a last-hole bogey for a 71 and joint fifth at 143 with multi-titled Miguel Tabuena and Tony Lascuña, who both matched par 72s. They were joined by Ira Alido, who had two bogeys against a birdie in the last seven holes for a for a 73.
Albin Engino also fumbled with a 73 for solo ninth at 145 while 2018 PGT Order of Merit winner Jobim Carlos rebounded from a 75 with a 71 for a 146, which was matched by Gerald Rosales after a a 72.
Angelo Que, one of those tipped to crowd for the top P350,000 purse in the first of two events in PGT restart owing to his power, talent and experience, made two bogeys in a birdie-less 74 that dropped him to joint 12th at 147 with Korea’s Park Jun Sung and Richard Sinfuego, who both fired 73s.
The tournament is the first of two events put up by ICTSI to mark the PGT’s restart. The other championship is slated Dec. 8-11 at the adjacent Langer layout.