BIG-hitting Tim Stewart fired an eight-under 63 to set the pace in the ICTSI Manila Southwoods Championship at the rain-softened Legends course on Tuesday in Carmona, Cavite.
Stewart, joint 12th in the Philippine Golf Tour’s Iloilo stop two weeks ago, kicked off his bid with three straight birdies.
The Australian fumbled with a bogey on the par-4 No. 4 but more than made up for the slip with the closing birdies.
Charles Hong hit five birdies on his first nine on the way to a 64. He got to eight-under but hit the fairway bunker on his drive on the ninth, dumped his approach shot on the left greenside bunker and muffed a nine-footer for par.
Angelo Que bucked bogeys on two par-3s with six birdies and an eagle for a 65 and a share of third with five others.
Lexus Keoninh of the US, Thailand’s Tawit Polthai, Macedonia’s Peter Stojanovski, Justin Quiban and Chris Hichman also fired 65s.
It was a day of low scoring in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., the rain-softened par-71 layout yielding 47 under-par cards under preferred lies.
Rufino Bayron, Michael Bibat, Clyde Mondilla and Dutch Guido Van der Valk all carded 66s
Keita Sudo of Japan and Thailand’s Thammasack Bouahom fired identical 67s, and Miguel Tabuena came through with a birdie-eagle feat from No. 13 to save a 68 for joint 16th with Joenard Rates, Zanieboy Gialon, Mars Pucay, Thai Ratchapol Jantavara, Pete Vilairatana of the US and Korean-American Micah Shin in the event backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and Pin High.
“I was on target most of the time. It was an incredible feeling. Overall my driving and irons were near perfect and my putting was impressive. I just need to sustain this kind of game in the next three days,” said Stewart.
Still, a good number of pre-tournament favorites groped for form despite the absence of the wind, including Juvic Pagunsan, who swept three titles in the Visayas in the PGT last month, four-time PGT Asia leg winner Jhonnel Ababa, PGT Asia Luisita champion David Gleeson of Australia, Elmer Salvador and multi-titled three-time PGT Order of Merit winner Tony Lascuña, whose one-under 70s were good for joint 34th to 49th.
Also hard-pressed to rebound strong are this year’s PGTA first leg champion at Luisita Thai Namchok Tantipokhakul (71-tied 50th), first PGTA co-sanctioned event in Taiwan – Daan TPGA Open – winner WIsut Artjanawat, also of Thailand (72-tied 64th), and defending champion Jay Bayron (73-tied 64th).
Bayron, who won here with a 26-under total on a par-72 course set last year, flubbed a number of birdie chances and made three bogeys after 16 holes. He only hit a birdie on the par-5 17th and wound up with a 36-37.
Worse was PGT top earner winner Jobim Carlos, who made four straight bogeys from No. 4 and ended up with a birdie-less 76 on a layout.
“I’m fully healed from my injury and I’m so glad to be back playing at home. While my body is at full strength, I am still trying to get my groove back, to get into the flow of the game,” said Tabuena. “But I have to make it up in the second round. The Legends is a scoring course so I’m way off my target of at least five-under each day to get a chance.