Course record puts Shin in driver’s seat

Micah Shin conquers Summit Point with a course record 64.

Micah Shin took charge in a day of torrid scoring at Summit Point, coming away with a four-birdie spree on both nines to set a new course record 64 and seize a one stroke lead over Thai Donlaphatchai Niyomchon at the start of the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Summit Point World 18 Challenge in Lipa City on Wednesday.

The lanky Korean-American actually came into the $100,000 Philippine Golf Tour (PGT) Asia event without any expectations, following a so-so showing in his return stint on the local circuit two weeks ago but thrived in the privacy of one of the early flights and racked up three straight birdies from No. 3 to spark a binge on a course that features 18 of the world’s most renowned golf holes.

“I had not been playing well lately and came here just trying to get back my feel,” said Shin, who shared 12th place in the ICTSI South Pacific Classic of the PGT in Davao and tied for 18th in the CAT Open of the PGT Asia at Luisita last week following a long campaign abroad.

But Niyomchon charged back in one of the late flights with four birdies at the back for a 65 as he moved past erstwhile second-running Joe Knox of England, who shot a frontside best 30 spiked by an eagle on No. 9 for a 66.

Filipino-German Keanu Jahns, who finished second to Tony Lascuña in the ICTSI Apo Classic of the PGT three weeks ago, also rallied with four birdies in the last seven holes at the front to shoot a 67 to tie Aussie Jack Lane-Weston, Japanese Rio Morio, Brett Munson of the US and reigning Philippine Open champion Clyde Mondilla at fourth.

A couple of foreign bets pulled to within striking distance of Shin but faltered at the finish with American Sam Gillis blowing a seven-under card with a triple-bogey on the par-four No. 8 for a 68 and Taiwanese Yang Fei Hao squandering a six-under card with three bogeys in the last five holes for a 69.

Defending champion Joenard Rates, likewise, put himself in the mix with a bogey-free 68 for a share of ninth with Rufino Bayron, Rico Depilo, Anthony Fernando, Kammalas Namuangruk of Thailand and Gillis, while Yang dropped to joint 16th with former Masters titlist Jerson Balasabas, Bebe Bouahom of Laos, Sydney Chung of the US, Fidel Concepcion of Australia, PGT Pueblo de Oro winner Reymon Jaraula, former Aboitiz Invitational winner Damien Jordan, also of Australia, obscure Teodoro Osabel, Japanese Yuta Sudo and Lindsay Renolds of Canada.

But Shin’s sizzling start stood out from among the 43 players who turned in under par rounds at the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed layout.

The Davao-based shotmaker, who has posted three big victories the last three years—the CAT Open in Luisita in 2016, in a regional tour event in 2017, and in The Country Club Invitational last year—missed five fairways in hot conditions but flashed superb iron shots to reach two of the five par-5s, four of which he birdied.

He kept an unblemished card by saving par on the par-4 No. 15, the only green he missed in a day when the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed layout yielded 43 under par scores in the absence of the wind.

“A couple of 65s were posted here last year, so his [Shin’s] 64 stands as the new course record,” said Summit Point General Manager Vic de Guzman.

Shin actually flubbed a four-footer for birdie on the opening hole but banged in a birdie from just about the same distance on the third to ignite a run, that included a three-footer on the next, a five-footer on No. 5, a tap-in on the seventh, and another four-footer on No. 10.

He missed two eagle chances on Nos. 14 and 16 then closed out with another “gimme” on the 18th to match his career-best eight-under card he shot during the first round of the Resorts World Masters at Southwoods.

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