Lloyd Go thrived in tough conditions, producing a near-impeccable six-under 66 to storm past Angelo Que by two halfway through the ICTSI Eagle Ridge at Aoki Invitational that saw the fall of a slew of early frontrunners and the rise of a mix of bidders in General, Trias on Wednesday.
On target all day with a superb iron play that set up a number of tap-in birdie chances on Aoki’s undulating, sleek surface that bedeviled the games of majority of the field, Go flourished with seven birdies to negate a three-putt miscue on the par-3 No. 7 as the former national champion charged from joint fifth to the top with a nine-under 135.
“I’ve been working on my (mid) irons for quite some time, so coming into this event, I was kind of confident,” said the former Seton Hall U standout, who topped the Philippine Golf Tour Q-School in 2018 but has opted to vie in the other regional tours to toughen up.
He rallied to earn a share of fifth at Splendido Taal last month on a closing 66, which he duplicated here at Aoki, which yielded to Go’s awesome form but bit back at some, including Que, who found the going a lot tougher and saved a 70 after kicking off his bid with a lead-sharing 67 in his first PGT foray since March last year, also here.
“I birdied three of the four par-5s that’s why I played good,” said Go. “And it will be just the same for tomorrow – get into the fairway and from there my irons play pretty good. So hopefully I could repeat what I did today.”
Only this time, he’ll be playing alongside the seasoned Que in what could be a test of character for the young Cebuano talent.
“Putting saved me today,” said Que, who, unlike Go, rued over his day-long struggle with his approach shots that often missed their targets.
Que, who last won a PGT event at Southwoods in the PGT Asia in 2019, hit just three birdies against a one bogey caused by a mishit from the fairway bunker and into the water on the par-5 No. 6.
“It was a tough shot but I think, a 2-under was okay, it’s still a good score,” said the Manila Southwoods-backed former three-time Asian Tour champion all primed up for another shot at the crown just two shots behind at 137.
“Hopefully, I’ll hit it better than today and my putting will still be the same,” said Que. “I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing and hopefully, I’ll be on top again.”
While 36 holes remain in the P2 million championship put up by ICTSI, the next best-placed challengers stood four strokes off Go with Tony Lascuña fighting back from an erratic backside start of 38 compounded by another bogey on No. 2 with four birdies in the last six holes to salvage a 71 and a 139.
Splendido leg playoff winner Guido Van der Valk also battled back from a shaky 71 while trying to measure up with Que and Juvic Pagunsan in the first round, settling down with his all-around game to shoot a 68 marked by three-straight birdies from No. 16 for a share of third with Lascuña.
But erstwhile joint leader Zanieboy Gialon stumbled with a 73 after a 67 and slipped to joint fifth at 140 with longshots Albin Engino and Dino Villanueva, who sizzled with a 67 and 69, respectively, while Jhonnel Ababa, the other top gun who carded a solid 67 Tuesday, turned from flawless to flawed with a 74 marred by a double bogey on No. 13. The Calatagan ace tumbled to joint eighth at 141 with Michael Bibat, who bogeyed two of the last three holes at the front and ended up with a 72, Anthony Fernando, who also matched par 72, and Reymon Jaraula and Orlan Sumcad, who shot identical 71s.
Pagunsan also blew a backside two-under card with three bogeys in the first eight holes at the front, needing to birdie the ninth to save a 72. But his 143 aggregate dropped him to a share of 17th with Marvin Dumandan and Rupert Zaragosa, who matched 71s, and Gerald Rosales, who faltered with a 74 after a 69.
They lay a stroke behind Rico Depilo and Jerson Balasabas, who shot identical 69s, and Ira Alido and Sean Ramos who matched 71s for the second straight day.
Forty-two players, including amateurs Perry Bucay (73-147) and Jed Dy (74-150) advanced with Erwin Arcillas (76), Jun Bernis (76) and Allan Remata (75) surviving the cut at 153 whike Robert Pactolerin (77-154), Rene Menor (79-155), Arnold Villacencio (73-154) and Rufino Bayron (74-159) were among the casualties in this fourth leg of this year’s PGT organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.