Thai Chawalit Plaphol came charging home at the front with four straight birdies as he fired a seven-under 65 to post a one-shot lead over Tony Lascuna and compatriot Atthaphon Prathummanee at the start of the ICTSI Mount Malarayat Championship at the Mt. Malarayat Golf & Country Club in Lipa City, Batangas, Wednesday.
Plaphol, who finished way down in 24th at Mercedes Benz Masters Thailand ruled by Juvic Pagunsan three weeks ago, picked himself up from an opening hole bogey on No. 10 with four birdies in the next eight holes.
He then birdied the last four holes at the front inside eight feet to surge ahead of a talent-laden field with a 32-33 card.
It was sizzling windup indeed for the 35-year-old Plaphol, a former SEA Games gold medalist and two-time winner on the Asian Tour making his first stint in the country.
“I drove well today and I’m happy with the way I started since it’s my first time here in the Philippines,” said Plaphol, who missed the cut in his first three tournaments on the Asian Tour. “I’ve been struggling lately so I want to play in as many tournaments as possible.”
Lascuna, joint fourth in the Pattaya Open who also shared fifth place with Pagunsan in the Indonesia leg of the M-Benz Tour, took the cudgels for the local contingent as he turned in a 33-33, scrambling for par on the last hole to preserve a bogey-free round in the $50,000 tournament sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Prathummanee matched Lascuna’s output with his own version of a 66, a 31-35 card highlighted by an eagle-3 on the par-5 No. 9. Another Thai Namchok Tantipokakul, the reigning M-Benz Tour Order of Merit champion, stood in solo fourth with a four-under 68, gunning down six birdies to negate a two-bogey mishap on Nos. 1 and 10.
Pagunsan outplayed Artemio Murakami and top Thai bet Wisut Artjanawat in one of the featured flights in the afternoon but missed seizing solo fourth with a bogey on the 18th. He settled for a 68 in a tie with Tantipokakul.
Davao’s Elmer Salvador, trying to win for third straight time at this wind-raked layout after ruling the Philippine Open last year and winning the kickoff leg of the ICTSI-Philippine Golf Tour early this year, put himself in the mix as he shot a bogey-less 69 to join compatriots Jett Plete, rallying with a 33 at the back, current Order of Merit leader Jay Bayron, Mars Pucay and unheralded Ebarra Quiachon, in sixth.
Pornpong Phatlum and fellow Thai bet Somkiat Srisang carded identical 70s to lead nine others in 11th place, five strokes off Plaphol in the four-day championship serving as the fifth leg of the M-Benz Tour.
Other two-under par scorers were Malaysian rookie Nicholas Fung, Thai Pornsakorn Tipsanit, Ramil Bisera, Richard Sinfuego, Joel Opaco, Murakami and amateurs Mhark Fernando and John Kier Abdon.
Antonio Asistio II and fellow rookie pro Rufino Bayron carded similar 71s for joint 22nd with Anthony Fernando, Ferdie Aunzo, Jerome Delariarte, Raymund Sangil and amateur Jerson Balasabas.
Dutch Guido Van Den Valk, who finished second to Salvador in the RP Open, fumbled with a double-bogey on No. 7 and two bogeys but made four birdies to salvage an even 72 in a tie witH Michael Bibat and Artjanawat.(pr)