Guido Van der Valk came in unruffled by the winds and took command with a 68 in one of the late flights, grabbing a one-stroke lead over erstwhile leader Fidel Concepcion halfway through the ICTSI Riviera Championship on Wednesday.
Van der Valk matched Concepcion’s big start that keyed the latter’s first round surge Tuesday but the former bested the latter’s opening 69 with a stronger finish on Langer’s tough finishing holes, birdying Nos. 15 and 16 for a pair of 34s. That fueled the Manila-based Dutchman’s drive for a second championship in this year’s Philippine Golf Tour following a stirring playoff win over Miguel Tabuena at Splendido Taal last May as he moved on top with an even 142 total.
“Good day because this course is difficult for me,” said Van der Valk, short in length but long in talent. “It’s long and windy, the greens are small and have lots of slopes in them, so I’m very happy to hit five birdies against two bogeys.”
The lead changed hands as fast as the wind changed directions in another harsh day here, so wild that an amateur scored a hole-in-one on No. 4, which Gretchen Villacencio aced in her side of the battle in the Ladies PGT last Tuesday, and put himself in strong contention, club pro Marvin Dumandan got into the mix in a long, long while, and the fancied Juvic Pagunsan recovered from a fumbling start with a run of birdies to salvage a 71 and pull to within four strokes off the lead with 36 holes left in the P2 million championship put up by ICTSI.
“The frontnine was tough, it’s quite windy but I was able to get back at the backnine with a one-under card,” said Concepcion, who held sway despite bogeys on Nos. 3 and 7 before yielding it with a double-bogey on the par-4 ninth after three-putting from 10 feet.
Obscure Rico Depilo hit two birdies against a bogey and tied Concepcion at the turn at two-over but the latter birdied the 10th to regain the lead, only to tumble down with bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13 as Van der Valk, who best finish here at Langer was fifth in 2019, stormed ahead with his big finish two flights ahead of Concepcion’s.
The first round leader, however, didn’t stray too far as he rebounded with birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 for solo second at 143 while amateur Josh Jorge made a ninth career hole-in-one on No. 4 to spike a 69 and tie Dumandan, who saved a 71, at 144.
“Tsamba lang,” said Jorge, a young power hitter who used a pitching wedge to score his ninth ace using a Bridgestone ball No. 3 on the 182-yard hole. He actually had a mishit with the ball sailing over the hazard and hitting the sloping green on the right before rolling straight to the cup.
With a clear crack at the crown, Jorge, one of the aspirants for the Philippine team set to vie in the Nomura Cup at his home course, Manila Southwoods, in November, stressed the need to stay focused, adding, “If ever I get to make a bad shot, will just forget it and move on to the next hole.”
But looming large at 146 is Pagunsan, who fought back from an opening 75 and three bogeys in the first six holes in the second round with birdies on Nos. 8, 9, and 15 for a 71 that sparked hopes for another surge by the most feared player in the fold, who dominated this event in 2019 in severe conditions.
Depilo failed to sustain a fine start but his 74 barely dropped him to joint fifth with Pagunsan and Tony Lascuna, who also faltered with a 74, while Ira Alido, a runaway winner here in 2020, also struggled with a 74 to drop to joint ninth at 147 with Jun Bernis and Zanieboy Gialon, who matched 73s, Arnold Villacencio, who shot a 72, and Rupert Zaragosa, who turned in a 73.
Former Philippine Open champion Clyde Mondilla also rebounded with a 73 after a 75 for a 148 but stood six shots of Van der Valk heading to the stretch run of the championship heading to a wild, scrambling finish.
“Diskarte lang dito,” said Dumandan, downplaying his chances for the elusive victory on his home turf. “No expectations, just enjoy and have fun.”
But no one sure is amused with the daunting challenges offered by the hazard-laden layout even as Angelo Que battled back with a 72 after a birdie-less 78 to jump to joint 19th at 150 with Eric Gallardo and Richard Sinfuego, who shot identical 74s.
Forty one players advanced to the money race with Jerson Balasabas (73), Jobim Carlos (78), Johny Espares (75) and Sean Ramos (79) barely surviving the cut at 157.