GEN. TRIAS. — Justin Quiban stumbled with a double-bogey on his final hole for a 73 that enabled a slew of others, including fancied Miguel Tabuena, to close in on Thursday, setting the stage for a wild finish in the ICTSI Eagle Ridge Challenge here.
Dispatching erstwhile co-leader Michael Bibat with birdies on Nos. 13 and 16 to seize firm control, Quiban went 3-up over his nearest pursuers heading to the par-4 18th. But he missed a couple of shots while battling gusty wind and ended up yielding two strokes on Aoki layout’s tough finishing par-4 hole.
But his one-over card, which came after he vaulted into a share of the lead with Bibat with a 65 Wednesday, still proved enough to keep him on top of the leaderboard as he assembled a 213 and moved closer to a third career victory after a breakthrough at PGT Asia at Luisita in 2017 and a dominant win in PGT Bacolod in 2018.
“I didn’t drive quite well and hit (irons) not so well either,” rued Quiban who described his round of 37-36 that featured three birdies and two bogeys as mediocre. “But at least I was able to go up-and-down in some holes that minimized the damage.”
But his late miscue guaranteed a slam-bang finish in the P2 million event kicking off the 2021 Philippine Golf Tour season sponsored by ICTSI as Tabuena moved into strong contention on two late birdies for a 70, one of the two best scores in scorching, punishing day at one of Eagle Ridge’s four championship courses.
Tabuena, who failed to figure in the two Riviera events late last year, birdied Nos. 14 and 16 and tied Zanieboy Gialon, who also birdied the 16th, for a 73, at 214 while Richard Sinfuego also rallied late with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 to save a 74 for a 215, just two strokes off Quiban.
“Considering the wind, I think I played pretty solid although I could’ve played more aggressive off the tee which I might do tomorrow,” said Tabuena, who also gained strokes on Nos. 1 and 12 to offset his bogeys on Nos. 11 and 13.
“I like where I’m at and think I have a big chance tomorrow,” added the former two-time Philippine Open champion, who hinted at going on attack mode in the final 18 holes of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., saying: “I might be a little more aggressive to give myself more chances.”
Steady in challenging conditions with back-to-back 70s, Bibat stayed at even par after 10 holes but failed to recover from a bogey on the par-5 11th, yielding more strokes on Nos. 13 and 14 before holing out with a bogey on the 18th for the third straight day.
The 2013 PGT Rancho Palos Verdes champion limped home with a 76 and slipped to fifth at 216 although he stayed in the hunt just three shots off the pace on a course that continued to bedevil the elite field’s games with the challenges varying in character in almost all holes.
First round leader Joenard Rates recovered a bit from a second round 76 with a 73 but lay five shots off Quiban at 218 at sixth followed by Jobim Carlos (73-219), and Rupert Zaragosa (73) and Paul Echavez (75) and amateur Jolo Magcalayo (70) at 220.