Canadian cards solid 66, leads by one

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

TARLAC, Philippines – Canadian Lindsay Renolds is a man on a mission and clearly showed it so.

Fighting to retain his Asian Tour card for 2016, the 29-year-old Renolds came through with a flawless performance and grabbed a one-shot lead over local ace Miguel Tabuena and three others at the start of the shortened 98th Philippine Open presented by ICTSI.

Renolds, the 95th ranked player who needs no less than a triumph to save his Asian Tour spot, fired a bogey-less six-under-par 66 to pace Tabuena, who shrugged off slight fever and a bogey start to card a 67 for second along with Chinnarat Phadungsil of Thailand, five-time Asian Tour winner Gaganjeet Bhullar of India and Jeunghun Wang of Korea.

“For me it’s kind of an all-or-nothing week. I need a win. If I don’t win, it’s the final stage Qualifying School for me. So my mindset right now is to just go out there, enjoy, be aggressive, and see what happens,” said Renolds.

The Phuket-based shotmaker birdied Nos. 11, 14 and 18 then matched it with birdies on 3, 5, and 9, to emerge on top after Day One of the 54-hole played at the Luisita Golf and Country Club here.

“I played well, stroked it well, my iron was good, I putted good, everything was pretty solid,” said Renolds.

“This is a generous course. The par-3s are the defense on this course. I don’t have one single highlight, my proximity to the hole was good all day,” said Renolds.

Tabuena overcame a bogey mishap in the very first hole with a six-birdie spree coming home to stay well within striking distance in the $300,000 Asian Tour final event sponsored by the International Container Terminal Services, Inc.  and backed by the MVP Sports Foundation, Smart, PLDT, FIBR, Metro Pacific Investment Corp. (MPIC), Amon Trading, Central Azucarera de Tarlac and Ayala Land, Inc. with San Miguel Corp., Suntrust Properties and Sta. Lucia as hole sponsors.

The reigning Order of Merit winner of the local tour sliced his drive to the right and missed the fairway on No. 1 He failed to save par with a miss from three feet.

“I didn’t start out too well. I made a bogey on the first hole but I’m confident I can make a lot of birdies here, having shot 22-under in a local tournament. It’s also preferred lie so I think I have a chance,” he said.

Tabuena negated that over-par hole with a birdie on No. 5 and he shot under-par scores five times in the next 10 holes.

“I was very lucky that Wednesday’s round was called off (due to incessant rains), it gave me extra rest. I still felt feverish but it’s manageable and it also helped that it wasn’t really hot today,” he said.

Juvic Pagunsan also lived up to the hype as the 2011 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner fired a four-under 68 in his very first stint at Luisita to join the early charge of the local aces in the 54-hole event.

Like Tabuena, Pagunsan kicked off his bid with a bogey on No. 10 but the smooth-swinging shotmaker, who dominated the Asian Development Tour field to win the Aboitiz Invitational at Manila Southwoods by eight last August, also bounced back with three straight bogeys from No. 12, added another on No. 16 before closing out with back-to-back birdies at the front to negate a bogey-birdie-bogey roll from No. 3.

“It was tough because it was my first time playing here,” said Pagunsan. “It was difficult to find the breaks on the greens. I didn’t play a practice round this week. I struggled a bit but my game is in good shape. I’m happy with the result. I really had to fight for my score.”

Johnrey Pactolerin, nephew of former Phl Open champion and many-time Phl Masters winner Robert Pactolerin, charged back with four birdies at the back to join Pagunsan at sixth along with Korean Giwhan Kim, former champion Mardan Mamat of Singapore and Englishman Simon Griffiths.

Seven players, including Aussie Scott Barr, Korean Seukhyun Baek and Ireland’s Niall Turner, fired three-under 69s while Jhonnel Ababa, Clyde Mondilla and Nilo Salahog carded identical 70s to lead 18 others at joint 18th and Aussie Marcus Both, who won by two at Wack Wack last year, struggled with an even par 72 for joint 51st.

Other Filipinos in early contention are Charles Hong, a former winner here, who shot a 71; Orlan Sumcad, Tony Lascuña, Cassius Casas, Artemio Murakami and Keanu Jahns matched par 72s; while Michael Bibat, Arnold Villacencio, Elmer Salvador, Randy Garalde, Michael Alejandro and Frankie Minoza, who blew a two-under card with three straight bogeys from No. 15, turned in similar 73s.

The 20-year-old Wang opened his account with six birdies against one bogey as he seeks a first Asian Tour win and repay the faith in Jeev Milkha Singh of India who selected the Korean as a Captain’s pick to represent Team Asia in the EurAsia Cup.

“The course is wet so it is playing long. I holed some long birdies putts which was nice. I only played nine holes (back nine) during the practice round. I was so afraid when I played on the front nine especially on the last hole where I missed a short birdie putt,” said Wang.

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