Makoto Iwasaki
Japanese charges past Bibat with 64
Dante Navarro ( - June 26, 2019 - 4:50pm

ILOILO – Coming off a missed cut and an abbreviated stint in Bacolod the past two weeks, Makoto Iwasaki put in a solid round that shouldn’t only merit him a spot in the last two rounds of the ICTSI Iloilo Golf Challenge but also a crack at the championship.

But one flawless card doesn’t make a title contender, much more a winner, but the Japanese hoped to build on his fine start to at least make up for his forgettable stints in the first three legs of the four-stage Visayan swing of the Philippine Golf Tour. 

Defying windy conditions and tricky greens, Iwasaki birdied two of the last five holes to complete a bogey-free 64 and dislodge Michael Bibat off the leaderboard at the start of the P3 million event here Wednesday.

“It was a perfect game,” said Makoto, himself a bit surprised over his performance on a par-70 course he hasn’t played before but mastered with superb iron game and putting. He hit three birdies from long range from No. 3 in one of the late flight, added another on the ninth then capping his pair of 32s with birdies on Nos. 14 and 16 in overcast skies that saw 22 players break par and seven others turn in even par 70s.

“The greens are hard to read. You have to be cautious here since a slight mistake could lead you to trouble,” said the 29-year-old campaigner from Chiba, whose 64 however fell two strokes off absentee and last year’s champion Jobim Carlos’ record card in the third round.

Juvic Pagunsan came out virtually cold while playing pressure-free after scoring back-to-back title romps in hometown Bacolod but remained a threat at 69 along with one-under par scores Joenard Rates, Jhonnel Ababa, Art Arbole, Paul Echavez, Albin Engino, Rene Menor, JR Salahog, Colombia’s Mateo Gomez, Spain’s Marcos Pastor and Yudai Suzuki of Japan. 

Bibat appeared headed to grabbing the first day honors in the 72-hole championship put up by ICTSI as he overcame a bogey start and a shaky finish with a pair of birdie binges for a 65 until Makoto came in with that five-under card.

The former Asian Games bronze medalist, who tied for second at Club Filipino de Cebu Invitational but struggled to finish joint 10th and 26th in Binitin and Marapara, actually fumbled with a bogey on No. 10 where he teed off. But he strung up four straight birdies from No. 11, the last, a par-5, barely missing an eagle putt from six feet.

He knocked down three straight from No. 2 but bogeyed the par-4 sixth for a 34-31.

“Despite my flubbed eagle putt, I putted well all day. But the course is tough, you have to hit it on the right position to get a good shot at birdies,” said Bibat.

Aussie Fidel Concepcion and Thai Kammalas Namuangruk carded identical 66s while American Lexus Keonin, Dutch Gudo Van der Valk and Tim Stewart, also from Australia, matched Anthony Fernando’s 67 while another Japanese Kanata Nakagawa shot a 68 for joint ninth with Ira Alido and Jay Bayron as the foreign bets took seven of the top 11 spots in one of their strongest starts in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Suzuki spiked his 35-34 round with an eagle on the par-5 No. 4 and hit two birdies but made three bogeys although he hopes Makoto will sustain his big start unlike him who faltered in the last three rounds and ended up tied at 29th after surprising the elite field with a flawless lead-grabbing 64 in Negros.

Pagunsan seemed to have lacked the fire that spiked his back-to-back title romps in Binitin and Marapara in his hometown in Bacolod, settling for pars in the first 10 holes from the back. He even fell to one-over with a bogey on the second but regained the stroke on No. 4 and holed out with another birdie for a 35-34 as he joined 10 others at 12th in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.

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