Joenard Rates came up with a fine performance in the Philippine Golf Tour restart in the new normal, firing a three-under 69 in the ICTSI Riviera Invitational Challenge at the Couples course on Tuesday in Silang, Cavite.
Rates brandished a near-impeccable short game to buck the heat and the wind – and the changes that marked the return of pro golf after an eight-month hiatus due to coronavirus pandemic, including playing without a caddie and wearing face mask when not launching a shot.
“It’s tough. But we have to get used to it since it’s the new normal,” said Rates, who bucked an early bogey mishap off an errant drive on No. 4 with four birdies, including three (Nos. 4, 7, and 16) from close range set up by superb wedge shots.
“I’ve been practicing and honing my short game during the long break. Physically, I’m also prepared playing without a caddie although I did opt for a conservative game since it would only add to my concerns if I hit wayward shots if I go on an attack mode,” said Rates.
Princess Superal dominated the Ladies PGT resumption as expected with a strong start and a stronger finish to open a six-shot lead with a five-under 67.
The multi-titled Superal eagled the par-5 No. 2, added two birdies on Nos. 6 and 8 then checked a two-bogey, one-birdie game at the back with back-to-back closing birdies.
Rookie pro Abby Arevalo also put up a fiery start of three birdies in the first six holes but the runaway winner of the 2020 Philippine Ladies Open lost her momentum and touch and made four bogeys in the next 10 holes and ended up with a 73 in a tie with former Junior World champ Daniella Uy.
Pauline del Rosario hardly recovered from a double-bogey start, hitting three birdies but fumbling with the same number of bogeys to stand seven strokes behind at 74.
Chanelle Avaricio, another rookie pro, eagled the 16th but had four bogeys and a double bogey to tie Chihiro Ikeda at 76.
Marvi Monsalve had a 78 and four-time money list topnotcher Cyna Rodriguez shot a 79.
“It’s still too early to say (about my chances) but I’m in a good position. I just have to stay focused and have a good rest,” said Rates.
Stamina will indeed be a major factor to one’s title bid, especially in hot conditions, as the pros had to drag their pull carts on the rolling layout, pull clubs for their first shot to the last putt by and clean them afterward.
Rates actually stumbled with a bogey on No. 4 but picked up strokes on Nos. 5 and 7 inside six feet then flourished at the tougher back nine that saw a number of big guns waver. He birdied the par-3 14th from 10 feet then drilled in a six-footer on the 16th to find himself the bewildered leader.
Dutchman Guido Van der Valk was in joint sixth at 72 with Jay Bayron, Albin Engino, Raymund Gonzales, and Rupert Zaragosa.
Angelo Que blew a hot start with a faltering finish, dropping to joint 11th at 73 with Jhonnel Ababa, Michael Bibat, Justin Quiban, and Lexus Keoninh of the US.