Alido sets pace in Tarlac with solid 66

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    LEADER: Ira Alido cashes in on his knowledge of the course.
    LEADER: Ira Alido cashes in on his knowledge of the course.

    TARLAC. — Ira Alido displayed his power and ball control then bucked the wind at the finish to fire a bogey-free six-under 66 and take a one-stroke lead over Clyde Mondilla and two foreigners Wednesday as the ICTSI Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open got going here.

    Cashing in on his local knowledge of the tight, challenging Luisita Golf and Country Club, Alido going when the going got tough, scorching the backside with five birdies for nines of 35-31 that stood as the best in a day when the early starters took charge in the $100,000 event serving as the sixth leg of the third season of Philippine Golf Tour Asia.

    “The greens are quite tough but manageable but I had to toughen up at the back with the wind coming into play. But I’m quite familiar with the course since I used to practice and play here during my amateur days,” said Alido, who has put up a number of impressive finishes in the last few PGT and PGT Asia tournaments anchored on strong starts.

    Closing out has been the 18-year-old shotmaker’s main concern, at least in a couple of tournaments, including in Aboitiz Invitational of the PGT Asia and in last week’s ICTSI South Pacific Classic of the PGT, which he both led in the third round only to waver in pressure-packed finishes.

    “I actually failed to hold on to my lead at South Pacific because I was not feeling well then. This time, I’m okay and in top shape physically and mentally to last me for four days,” added the sophomore pro, who settled for fifth at Wack and Wack and finished second in Davao.

    Stalking him at 67s was a troika of veterans ready to pounce on the slightest miscue, led by Mondilla, who gunned down five birdies after 15 holes, including a flubbed eagle putt from 10 feet on the par-5 12th, only to stumble with a wet bogey on the par-5 16th. The reigning Philippine Open champion, however, holed out with a birdie on the 18th to catch Aussie Tim Stewart and American Brett Munson at second.

    Starting at the back, the big-hitting Stewart shook off a bogey on No. 11 with three birdies in the next four holes then shot three more birdies at the front for a 33-34 he preserved with four scrambling pars, while Munson went on a six-birdie spree after 13 holes but missed joining Alido at the helm with a bogey on No. 14 for his own version of a 33-34.