Chawalit Plaphol of Thailand continued to humble the cream of the local pro crop with his brilliant shotmaking, turning in an eight-under 64 and padding his overnight one-stroke lead to a whopping five-shot cushion over Tony Lascuna halfway through the ICTSI Mount Malarayat Championship in Lipa City, Batangas, Wednesday.
Plaphol, who showed up the field with a seven-under 65 Wednesday, came through with a pair of three-birdie binges on
both nines in an awesome display of iron game and putting, then added three more birdies to negate his lone wet bogey mishap on the par-5 ninth of the Mt. Malarayat layout.
He pooled an impressive 15-under 129 aggregate and pulled away from Lascuna, who reeled farther back despite putting in a second straight bogey-free round – a 68 and a 134.
Artemio Murakami, who came from behind to nip Jay Bayron and win the Mercedes Benz Masters Philippines crown at the Manila Southwoods last April, shot a solid 66 to force a three-way tie for third at 136 heading into the final 36 holes of the $50,000 event sponsored by the International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Others with eight-under par totals are Thai Attaphon Prathummanee, who had a 70, and current Mercedes-Benz Tour Order of Merit leader Bayron, who fired an eagle-spiked 67.
The unheralded troika of Richard Abaring, Joel Opaco and Ramil Bisera shot identical 69s to tie Omar Dungca, shooting a 66, and Raymund Sangil, who made a 68, at sixth place but too far behind at 139, 10 shots adrift of Plaphol.
Juvic Pagunsan, who came into the event, the fifth leg of the M-Benz Tour, a heavy favorite following his runaway victory in the fourth in Thailand recently, lost his touch after an opening 68 as he wound up with a 72 marred by a bogey on the par-5 18.
Catching him at 140 are Thai Ronnachai Jamnong (68), Richard Sinfuego (70), Ebarra Quiachon (71), Mars Pucay (71), Thais Pornpong Phatlum (70) and Namchok Tantipokakul (72) Jerome Delariarte (69), Nicholas Fung of Malaysia (70) and Antonio Asistio II (69).
“The last time I played this good, I won,” said the 35-year-old Thai ace, referring to his victory in the ANA Open on the Japan PGA Tour in 2004 where he strung up 66 and 65 in the first two rounds before closing out with back-to-back 70s to nip YE Yang by one.
Plaphol played pressure-free against Antolin Fernando and Delariarte in one of the afternoon flights, firing three straight birdies from No. 3 and adding another one on the seventh before fumbling with a bogey on the ninth when he found the water.
But the former SEA Games individual gold medalist from Chonburi, who placed 24th last week in the Queen’s Cup
in Thailand for his best finish this season after missing the cut in his first three tournaments, quickly recovered the stroke with a birdie on the 10th, rammed in another one on the 12th before coming up with another three-birdie string from No. 15.
But he is expected to have his hands full against Lascuna and anyone from the six players in the eight-under group in the final flight as the title chase heats up in the third round on Thursday.(pr)