JUSTIN QUIBAN came out on top after a searing hunt for birdies in a frontside finish coming off a brief rain delay and stormed past Reymon Jaraula and Jhonnel Ababa for a one-stroke lead with a second 67 halfway through the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Del Monte Championship in Bukidnon Wednesday.
As first round leader Clyde Mondilla wrestled with his putter after pounding the Del Monte Golf Club’s surface with a two-eagle, six-birdie blitz against two bogeys in a lead-grabbing 64 Tuesday, Quiban stuck to his game plan and stayed on track of his target, coming away with another five-under card that shoved him to the top of a stellar field at 10-under 134.
“It’s pretty much the same,” said Quiban, when asked to assess his game in the first two rounds. “I was just trying to stick to my strategies. It’s a tight course so I need to hit the fairways and try to capitalize on the par 5s.”
He did as he birdied all but one of the four long holes, including the last on No. 9 that moved him past Jaraula and Ababa, who also put up big frontside windups to momentarily seize control at 135s after a 65 and 69, respectively, until Quiban toppled them in a flight behind.
Mondilla later rued his poor putting that led to a number of missed chances and a 72 as the local ace fell to solo fourth at 136 with Rupert Zaragosa also settling for an even-par to likewise dropped to fifth at 137.
“Putting made the difference but at least, I’m still in the position,” said Mondilla, who actually stayed in command with two birdies in the first four holes at the back before his putting turned a bit shaky, leading to two bogeys and muffed birdie opportunities.
“I hit an errant drive and missed a four-footer for par for my bogeys on Nos. 16 and 1, so my putting really didn’t click,” said Mondilla, seeking to score a follow-up to his victory at Forest Hills last June. “A good putter always has the edge here.”
Art Arbole fired a 68 to move up to joint sixth at 139 with Nilo Salahog, who struggled with a 73, while Ferdie Aunzo shot a 68 for a 141 as he joined Zanieboy Gialon, who carded a 69, and Ira Alido, who shot a 70, at eighth with 36 holes left in the P2.5 million championship backed by the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.’s official apparel Kampfortis Golf.
The rest of the surviving 40-player field could be too far behind to pose a threat with the tightly-bunched Top 5, with only three strokes separating them, bracing for a duel of power and putting in the last two days.
“My goal is to score 5-under each day and sneak in another birdie on the par-3s and par 4s,” said Quiban, a two-time winner on the Philippine Golf Tour (PGT) and PGT Asia, whose strong 36-hole showing underscored his tip-top condition following a tough stint in the Asian Development Tour in Vietnam last Sunday.
“Just stick to my game plan—hit more fairways, sink more putts and not mind the other players’ games,” said Quiban.
While Jaraula, like Mondilla, puts premium on putting, Ababa, who beat Jaraula here by two in 2019, said: “The strong hitter has the advantage.”
“I struggled a bit on the greens in the first round but putted better today (Wednesday) despite making one three-putt,” said Jaraula, who snapped a long title spell with an imposing victory at Valley, also last June.
“I hope my putting clicks in the next two days,” added Jaraula, who spiked his 33-32 round with a pitch-in eagle from 143 yards on the par-4 No. 5. He picked up another stroke on the par-5 next to grab the lead before play was halted for 20 minutes due to heavy rains.
Ababa joined flightmate Jaraula at the helm with a birdie-birdie windup but the duo yielded the lead as Quiban came in with his birdie-par-birdie finish.
Image credits: Roy Domingo