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Rho zooms back to top of leaderboard with stunning 68 

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Rho zooms back to top of leaderboard with stunning 68 
Hyun Ho Rho flexes his arms after a remarkable performance.
Pilipinas Golf

MANILA, Philippines – Hyun Ho Rho soared back to the top of the ICTSI Villamor Philippine Masters in dramatic fashion, delivering a stunning 68 in a roller-coaster third round in Pasay City Friday.

Rho’s resurgence, punctuated by a tap-in eagle on No. 18, saw him back in control at 210 in the fiercely contested third round of the P2 million championship where the lead frequently changed hands over the final nine holes at the Villamor Golf Club.

Halfway leader Ryan Monsalve looked poised to defend his lead, showcasing grit against a formidable field, including seasoned pro Angelo Que. However, a costly three-bogey stretch starting at the 14th hole derailed his momentum, igniting a chaotic scramble for supremacy.

Under the blazing sun, Rho emerged back as the frontrunner at six-under overall, thanks to a thrilling birdie-eagle finish. His one-stroke advantage over Que, who holed out with a birdie for a 70 and a 211, sets the stage for a nail-biting final round battle for the top P345,000 purse.

“My tee shots today were really straight and I putted the ball quite well. I made a few bogeys on the back nine, but I managed to finish strong,” said Rho, reflecting on his round. On the final hole, he hit a drive to the right, but luck was on his side as the ball struck a tree and bounced back into the middle of the fairway.

From 256 yards out, Rho executed a high draw with a 3-wood, landing the ball within two off the hole.

Looking ahead to the final 18 holes and his pursuit of a first championship, the 2022 PGT Q-School topnotcher hinted at a more conservative approach. 

“As much as I like to play aggressively, I’m just going to enjoy the moment. Regardless of the outcome, I’ll accept it, but I’ll give my best and enjoy the game,” said the 19-year-old Rho, who initially surged to the top with a hole-in-one fueled 67 Wednesday, only to stumble with a 75 in the second round.

Que, who had matched Monsalve’s two-under card after eight holes, slipped from the lead with miscues on Nos. 9 and 11. But he rallied with birdies on two of the last six holes, including the 18th, to save a two-under card, putting him just one stroke behind the Korean.

Lloyd Go, initially four strokes behind Monsalve, stumbled with an early bogey on the third hole but roared back with five birdies to card a 68, tying him at third at 212 with Daiya Suzuki, who matched the day’s best four-under par round. This sets up what could be the most unpredictable, exciting climax in this year’s Philippine Golf Tour.

Go is gunning for a second championship after scoring a breakthrough in emphatic fashion at Palos Verdes last March. 

Pondering on the challenge ahead, he said: “The course is deceptively difficult. It’s a constant balancing act and I find it hard to judge. I feel like I could shoot 8-under or 8-over. However, I’ve been steadily making progress."

Meanwhile, Suzuki, a Tour qualifier, is determined to leverage his putting skills to upstage his more favored rivals. He aims to build on his tied for 15th place finish at Apo last March and is keen on improving his game.

Despite faltering late in his round and finishing with a 73, Monsalve remains a serious contender at 213, just three strokes behind Rho. On a course as challenging as Villamor, this deficit is far from insurmountable.

Aidric Chan and Sean Ramos, both firing 70s, are hot on the leaders’ heels at 214 at joint sixth, while amateur Jeffren Lumbo dazzled with a 68, securing solo eighth at 214. Meanwhile, Rupert Zaragosa rallied with a 69 to tie Tony Lascuña, who slipped with a 73, at 216.

With such a tightly packed leaderboard and the top contenders brace for a high-stakes high-noon showdown, the final round of the 72-hole championship, organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc. and supported by PGTI official apparel Kampfortis Golf, promises a thrilling battle for the coveted title.

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