Morilla, Lee seize control

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    FRANCIS Morilla banged in a late birdie at the front to save a 73 in tough conditions yesterday and wrest the halfway lead in the Philippine Golf Tour Qualifying School (local) at Splendido Taal Golf Club in Batangas.

    Morilla, who carded an eagle-spiked 70 in Tuesday’s opener of the 72-hole eliminations, appeared headed for a fumbling finish after a roller-coaster three birdie-bogey backside start with bogeys on Nos. 3 and 5. But he birdied the par-3 No. 6 then parred the last three to salvage nines of 37-36 and move in front at 143 as he bolstered his bid for a Tour card after ending up at No. 56 in last year’s PGT Order of Merit.

    Sean Talmadge missed joining Morilla on top with a bogey on the ninth, with the power-hitting former San Jose State U mainstay settling for a second straight 72 and dropping into a four-way tie for second at 144.

    They include former national champion Lloyd Go, who sizzled with six birdies against three bogeys for one of the day’s two best 69s; Bonifacio Salahog, who also matched par 72, and Anthony Fernando, who hobbled home with 75.

    Arnold Villacencio, flawless with a tournament-leading eagle-spike 67 after 18 holes, limped with a 78, his 41-37 card marred by a double-bogey and five bogeys against one birdie. He slipped to sixth at 145 but safely made it to the top 40 plus ties advancing to the last 36 holes where the top 30 will gain Category 6 status in this year’s PGT starting fields. The rest will be included in Category 9.

    Over in Q-School for foreign hopefuls, CJ Lee of the US rallied with three frontside birdies to shoot a 71 and storm ahead at 141, now two-strokes up on erstwhile co-leader Romano Saincic of South Africa, who struggled with a 73 for a 143.

    Japanese Gen Nagai also groped for a 75 after an opening 70, slipping to third at 145 in a tie with Aussie William Bruyeres, who carded a 73, while Korean Hwang Myung Chal pooled a 147 for fifth after a 74 followed by amateur Anthony Gutierrez of the US (73-148) and fellow American Greg Gonzalez (73-152).