Keoninh, Stewart surge ahead; Alido tumbles

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    TARLAC. — American Lexus Keoninh used his superb iron play and solid putting to card a solid seven-under 65 then watched Aussie Tim Stewart fumble with a late bogey to grab a share of the lead Thursday halfway through the ICTSI Azucarera de Tarlac Open at Luisita Golf and Country Club here.

    The duo virtually slugged it out shot-for-shot and putt-for-putt in separate flights in afternoon play with Keoninh emerging from the day-long battle in the heat and light wind with six birdies, including three straight from No. 11, to get to 10-under 134 first, including an opening 69.

    “I hit it close and made a lot of putts,” said Keoninh, who has had a number of cracks at a championship on both the Philippine Golf Tour and PGT Asia but just couldn’t pull it off in the end.

    Two flights behind, Stewart held sway with his own birdie-binge, seven in all against a lone bogey after 15 holes. But the long-hitting shotmaker, who placed second to Angelo Que in PGT Asia Manila Southwoods last July, bogeyed Luisita’s signature hole No. 17 and settled for a 67 and a share of the lead.

    The duo stood three strokes ahead of PGT Cebu leg titlist Dutch Guido Van der Valk and reigning Philippine Open champion Clyde Mondilla, who assembled identical 137s after a 68 and 70, respectively, not a big cushion on a tough, challenging course and over a slew of aces all primed up for an assault in the last two days of the $100,000 event serving as the sixth leg of the third season of the region’s emerging circuit put up by ICTSI.

    Mondilla, whose game took a downswing after nailing his first Philippine Open crown last April, failed to match his blistering opening 67 but scrambled just good enough for five birdies against two bogeys to stay within striking distance of the joint leaders.