O’Toole ties Bayron at helm with 66

Unable to shake off one another after three rounds, John Michael O'Toole (in photo) and Jay Bayron bring their shootout to the final 18 holes.

CARMONA, Cavite – John Michael O’Toole battled Jay Bayron shot-for-shot, putt-for-putt and birdie-for-birdie then put on another fiery windup to card a 66 and tie the Filipino ace at the helm after three rounds of the rich ICTSI Manila Southwoods Golf Championship at the Legends course here on Tursday.

Neither one blinked majority of their day-long shootout marred by another weather delay but O’Toole came out of the break and a three-putt miscue on No. 16 with closing birdies, bouncing back from two down for a shared view of the top and bringing their highly charged duel for the top $17,500 purse to the final 18 holes of the $100,000 event serving as the third leg of the Philippine Golf Tour Asia Season 2.

“After I bogeyed No. 16, I knew I had to make up,” said O’Toole after virtually matching his explosive finish of three straight birdies that pulled him within one off Bayron Wednesday. “I hit really good shots on the last two holes, the crucial ones for the day and those rewarded me a share of the lead.”

Bayron actually turned in a bogey-free 67 that could keep one’s lead safe but had to settle for joint lead at 20-under 196 with pars in the last four holes.

“After the delay, the plan was to play cautious. I didn’t commit any errors despite the wet fairways and the slow greens,” said Bayron. “I’m happy to finish with a share of the lead and it’s going to be tough tomorrow (today). Whoever gets a good start will have a better chance at winning.”

He threatened to pull away early with a birdie on No. 3 but O’Toole struck back with his own birdie on No. 5. They matched birdies on the two par-5s and on the short par-4 No. 10 then O’Toole tied Bayron at the helm at 18-under overall with another birdie on No. 11.

But the veteran Filipino campaigner, out to snap a two-year title spell, birdied the par-5 14th for the third straight day and watched his rival miss the fairway and settle for par to wrest back the lead before play was stopped due heavy rains and lightning threat after both hit the par-3 No. 16.

At resumption, O’Toole three putted from long range, enabling Bayron to go 2-up but the former birdied the last two holes to force a tie, extending what had been a fiery showdown of power, birdie-binge and nerve to a deciding round for the coveted crown in the event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

The rest of the 57 players who survived the cut at one-under 143 Wednesday failed to match the leading duo’s sustained charge and stood too far behind to contend with Micah Shin firing a 65 to seize third but seven strokes behind at 203 in a tie with Aussie Tim Stewart, the third player in the featured flight, who carded a 70.

Finland’s Teemu Putkonen also shot a 70 for solo fifth at 205 while Angelo Que shot a 69 for a 206.

Jobim Carlos, winner of the PGT Asia Riviera leg last week, shot a 68 to move to solo seventh at 207 while Keanu Jahns fired a 67 to tie Mars Pucay, who matched par 72, at 208 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.

Indonesian Elki Kow, American Cory Oride, Macedonian Peter Stojanovski and Japanese Yuta Sudo all shot 70s for joint 10th with Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who made a 72, and Albin Engino and Englishman Grant Jackson, who hobbled with identical 73s.