RICHARD Sinfuego bucked an early bogey with a late birdie binge for a five-under 67 and a one-stroke lead in the first round of the ICTSI Del Monte Championship at Del Monte Golf Club on Wednesday in Bukidnon.
Sinfuego made bogey on his third hole but took charge three birdies in the last five holes for nines of a 33-34.
He had a chance to take a two-stroke lead but missed an eagle putt from the fringe on the par-5 ninth, his final hole.
"I thought it was going in, sadly it didn't," said the 42-year-old Sinfuego, seeking his first win since winning back-to-back at Orchard and Southwoods nine years ago. He tied for 25th place at Rancho Palos Verdes last week.
Elmer Salvador and Michael Bibat were in joint second after shooting 68s.
Salvador went 33-35, while Bibat overcame back pain for nines of 35-33, spiked by an eagle on No. 14.
"I felt it the whole day but my chiropractor told me to do my routine exercises and ice it a bit. I hope it gets better in the next two days," said the 28-year-old Bibat.
John Hay leg winner Jay Bayron had a 73 and Sherwood champion Miguel Tabuena scored a 74.
Fil-Chinese James Ryan Lam came through with an eagle from a bunker on No. 9 for a 68, joining local bet Jovannie Abaño, Anthony Fernnado, Charles Hong, Jett Plete and Tony Lascuña.
"I'll just try to hit as best as I could and the hit the fairways and greens as much as a I can for me to have a chance of winning here," said Lam, seeking his first title on the ICTSI-sponsored tour.
Plete, meanwhile, grabbed the spotlight after scoring a hole-in-one on the 165-yard No. 16.
"It's a memorable moment for me," said the 35-year-old Plete, a club pro at Del Monte who also hit an ace at Pueblo de Oro in Cagayan de Oro City three years ago.
Lascuña, who dominated the Calatagan leg and finished joint second with Salvador last week, missed grabbing a share of the lead with muffed putts from close range on Nos. 14 and 15 and a missed-green bogey on No. 17.
"I lost my cool after that miss on No. 14 because I was counting on finishing at six-under," said Lascuna.
Frankie Miñoza, fancied to reign on his home course, stayed in contention by birdying two of the last five holes for a 70 that was matched by his brother Peter Miñoza, Orlan Sumcad, Arnold Villacencio, Peter Villaber and Korean Micah Shin.
Mars Pucay carded a 71 for a share of 16th place with Chris delos Santos, Jun Rates and Dutch Guido Van der Valk in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., and backed by Nike Golf, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, Mizuno, Titleist, Srixon, Foot Joy, Callaway, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers, Cleveland Golf and Sharp.