February 24, 2017, 2:45 am
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Nakajima clubhouse leader with 68

MORONG, Bataan. – Japanese Toru Nakajima defied gale-force winds and the sleek putting surface on Wednesday, upstaging a stellar local roster with a bogey-free 68 and taking a provisional two-stroke lead over Angelo Que in the ICTSI Anvaya Cove Golf tournament that was stopped due to darkness at the Anvaya Cove Golf and Sports Club here.

The 32-year-old Tokyo native, a regular campaigner on the local circuit, gunned down four birdies, including a 26-footer on the par-5 10th where he started, for nines of 34-34 and the early lead in the P3.5 million event kicking off this year’s Philippine Golf Tour sponsored by ICTSI.

“The wind was very strong, the strongest I ever experienced here, and I’m lucky to have made a sub-par round,” said Nakajima, referring to the flag-bending gusts that blew not only the early bids of Tony Lascuña and Clyde Mondilla but also a number of tournament tables.

The organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. halted play at dusk with 14 flights stranded. They will complete play at 6:15 a.m. Thursday.

“I played a flawless game. My putting, irons and short game were in place. Hopefully, I can keep my game in the last three rounds,” said Nakajima, seeking a second win in the circuit after nipping Jay Bayron in a playoff to snare the Wack Wack Championship in 2013.

Que, who also opened his bid for a second Anvaya crown at the back, actually bested Nakajima’s 68 with a five-under card after 12 holes. But just when the 2015 champion thought he had the wind-raked layout all figured out, he stumbled with a bogey-double-bogey windup and slid to second with a 70.

Que, who teed off with Frankie Miñoza, Lascuña and unheralded James Dadizon, had five birdies inside 10 feet but missed the green on No. 8 and hacked an errant approach shot on the par-5 10th that found the water. He finished with nines of 33-37.

“Sobrang lakas nang hangin, parang bagyo. Suerte lang naka-under par ako,”  said Que, a former three-time Asian Tour champion.

The rest of the 112-player field failed to break par, ruffled by the wind that blew from all over and in various directions all day.

Michael Bibat, also chasing a second title since 2013, went three-under with a birdie and a pitch-in eagle from No. 2 but made two bogeys and a double bogey from No. 7 and posted a one-over card with seven holes to play.

Others at one-over when play was stopped were Jet Mathay and Jay Bayron while Erwin Arcillas, Poland’s Thomas Bosco, Rico Depilo, Randy Garalde and Godofredo Sinfuego had two-under card after 15 holes.

American Nicolas Paez and Orlan Sumcad carded a pair of 76s with Cassius Casas, Albin Engino, Korean Park Jun Sung and Pedo Repato at four-over with seven holes left.

Others who finished their rounds were Minoza, Elmer Salvador, Mhark Fernando, James Dadizon, Nilo Salahog, and Rene Menor, who all had 77s while Anthony Fernando, Christopher de los Santos, Mars Pucay, Jonard Rates, Paul Echavez and Japanese Syotaro Onuki had 78s.

Lascuña, the reigning Order of Merit champion, turned in probably a career-worst 12-over 84 marred by a triple bogey, a double bogey and a rash of bogeys against just two birdies.

Dropping to joint 89th, Lascuña also faced the specter of missing the cut for the first time in a long, long while.

“Lahat masama. Imagine I missed a number of easy birdie putts and the shortest inside four feet on Nos. 10 and 11. With the strong wind, it was too tough out there,” rued Lascuna, shaking his head in disbelief.

Mondilla, who finished second to Lascuña in the OOM race, was also in danger of missing the last 36 holes of the event, backed by KZG, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers, TaylorMade, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, Event Captain, Ping and Pioneer Insurance, as he shot himself in the foot with an 80.

Shin, winner of the CAT Open last year who wound up No. 5 in the OOM last year, skied to an 81 while Dutch Guido Van der Valk fumbled with an 82.
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