Suzuki zooms to the top with solid 64
BACOLOD – Japanese Yudai Suzuki, who took his Philippine Golf Tour debut for granted and missed the cut, returned from a weeklong break and took charge with a solid six-under 64, upstaging a stellar field to wrest a two-stroke lead over fancied Juvic Pagunsan and two others at the start of the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic here Wednesday.
Suzuki rattled off four birdies at the back then added two more on his frontside finish in hot conditions in morning play as he found himself a bewildered leader as Pagunsan, Richard Sinfuego and Dutch Guido Van der Valk’s late charge in rainy afternoon fell short with identical 66s.
“I didn’t play good in Danao because I was out of focus,” said the 29-year-old pro from Osaka, referring to his failed bid in Club Filipino de Cebu Invitational two weeks ago. He skipped last week’s event in Murcia, Bacolod to work on his game, the result of which he showed with his flawless 31-33 card at the par-70 Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club layout formerly known as Marapara.
But he will be hard-pressed to duplicate his first round feat as Pagunsan is expected to further close in after turning in a superb 31-35 despite being bothered by some personal woes.
“I barely slept since I had to watch over my wife,” said Pagunsan, referring to Maria Elena, whom he rushed to the hospital the other night. The region’s former No. 1 actually hinted at withdrawing from the P3 million event he topped last year but decided to play after he was assured of his wife’s recovery from illness.
“I didn’t had a good start but was able to pick up my game in the last nine holes. Hopefully, I can rest tonight and see what happens tomorrow,” added Pagunsan, who settled for a one birdie-one bogey game at the back but shot four birdies at the front to force a three-way for second.
That should make the second round worth watching with Suzuki hoping to buck the pressure and Sinfuego and Van der Valk out to press their respective bids after matching Pagunsan’s 66 with 33-33 and 31-35 cards, respectively.
Emilio Parodi of Argentina, who also missed the cut in the first two legs of the four-stage Visayan swing of the circuit put up by ICTSI, likewise cashed in on an early tee-off, hitting four birdies against a bogey to fire a 67 for solo fifth while Nilo Salahog, American Pete Vilairatana and Zanieboy Gialon put in identical 68s for a share of sixth.
Ira Alido blew an impressive front 31 with three bogeys in the last nine holes, ending up with a 69 and falling to a big one-under par scorers who included reigning Philippine Open champion Clyde Mondilla, Jhonnel Ababa, Tony Lascuña, Michael BIbat, Rufino Bayron, Paul Echavez, Albin Engino, James Ryan Lam, Japanese Ryui Hashimoto, Ryo Nishimura and Kei Matsuoka, and former PGT Asia Luisita leg winner Aussie David Gleeson.
Matching par 70s were Reymon Jaraula, Englishman George Twyman, Jeffrey Pito-on and Swede Sebastian Hansson as the rest of the starting 105-player struggled at the short but tricky hazard-laden course with winding fairways and unpredictable surface and are in for a mad scramble for the top 40 plus ties berths after 36 holes of play in the tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
But Suzuki kept his focus on all morning, hitting it straight and through and coming through with superb approach shots to birdie the two par-5s (Nos. 18 and 2) from short range and adding four more feats on Nos. 12, 14, 15 and 4 inside six feet.
“I took my target very well,” said Suzuki, who hopes to sustain his form and hit the bulls-eye on Saturday in the tournament backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.