Four-up and all-pumped up, Tim Stewart moves 18 holes away from nailing the elusive victory.
Stewart nears breakthrough with 3rd 67
Dante Navarro (Philstar.com) - October 18, 2019 - 4:09pm

TARLAC – Trotting the world the past decade in pursuit of a championship, Tim Stewart never lost hope of finally raising a trophy the way he did when he hoisted the Tasmanian Open crown as an amateur in 2008.

With three straight 67s at the Luisita layout Friday and a big four-stroke lead over Dutch Guido Van der Valk, the 34-year-old Brisbane native now came tantalizingly close to a dream title run in the ICTSI Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open here.

In moving day in the $100,000 championship of the Philippine Golf Tour Asia, Stewart dispatched Lexus Keoninh and Clyde Mondilla with a potent power game and crisp iron play that defied the wind and difficult pin placements and produced another five-under card that he kept unblemished by saving a couple of pars, including on the last hole.

His 34-33 round and a 15-under 201 total is easily one of the lowest 54-hole outputs posted at the dreaded Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-designed layout but more importantly, it gave Stewart a big cushion in his chase for a victory that has eluded him the past 11 years.

“I played more than 50 tournaments around the globe and 26 here in the Philippines but winless up to this time,” said Stewart, who turned pro after that Tasmanian Open feat. “Hopefully, I make it this time.”

With a commanding lead, the 6-6 power hitter could be heading to claiming that recognition denied him twice, including in last year’s Luisita Championship of the PGT where he lost by two to Mondilla, and in PGTA’s Manila Southwoods Championship last July where he lost by five to Angelo Que.

“Golf is unpredictable. Many weird things happen along the way. So I will just play and enjoy my game,” said Stewart.

As Keoninh and Mondilla wobbled, Van der Valk threatened to within one off Stewart with a solid 32 start. But the Manila-based Dutchman, winner of PGT’s kickoff leg in Cebu last June, failed to get a crack at the lead with a couple of flubbed birdie chances, playing the backside on even terms for a second 68 and a 205.

Keoninh, who caught up with Stewart at the helm with a bogey-free 66 Thursday, fell behind with two bogeys after six holes and reeled farther back with three straight bogeys from No. 10 against two birdies. He limped with a 75 and tumbled to joint sixth at 209 with Rupert Zaragosa, who shot a second straight 70.

Mondilla, just three shots behind the joint leaders halfway through the $100,000 event co-sanctioned by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and PGA of Taiwan (TPGA), pressed his bid with three birdies against a bogey after five holes. But the reigning Philippine Open champion got himself undone with a wet triple-bogey on the par-3 


“Sayang, I had a good start but went into the water twice on No. 6,” said Mondilla of his errant 7-iron tee shot on the 201-yard hole. He, however, fought back with three birdies in the last seven holes to save a second 70 and remain at third at 207, now six strokes behind Stewart.

Wang Wei-Lun bucked a bogey on No. 4 with six birdies, including five at the back, as he turned in his best score of 67 after a 72 and 69 in his first stint here as spearhead of a 36-player strong Taiwanese delegation. The TPGA’s fifth-ranked player moved to joint fourth at 208 with Aussie Fidel Concepcion, who also carded a five-under card.

Rufino Bayron shot a 71 for ninth at 210 while first round leader Ira Alido, who bombed out with a 76 in the second round, strung up a four-birdie binge in a five-hole stretch from No. 8 but bogeyed No. 16 for a 69 and a 211.

Tony Lascuña, hot on a three-win run, sparked by a victory in PGTA Nan Pao Open in Taiwan last month, birdied the first hole to stay in the hunt but lost his focus, touch and all at the back with a 42 marred by a disastrous quintuple bogey on the par-3 No. 17. He ended up with a 77 and slipped to joint 30th at 219.

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