In-form Carlos blitzes way to top with 69

Confident Jobim Carlos steps up drive for second win.

DAVAO – Jobim Carlos, enjoying top form following a breakthrough at Riviera, put in a superb three-under 69 in calm condition on Thursday and lined himself up for another crack at the crown halfway through the P3 million ICTSI Apo Golf Invitational here yesterday.

Through he barely grabbed a one-stroke lead over a gutsy Nilo Salahog and went two-up over Ramil Bisera and Joenard Rates, Carlos heads to the final 36 holes brimming with confidence with a slew of unfancied bets in the next six rungs and the tour’s top guns failing to mount their vaunted charge at the difficult Apo Golf and Country Club course.

“I had no problem with my game today (yesterday). Everything’s in place,” said Carlos, who birdied all but one par-5s and whose five-under 139 put the former amateur hotshot on track for a follow up to his PGT Asia victory at Riviera three weeks ago.

“But you have to be extra cautious because the fairways are narrow and the greens are tricky,” added Carlos, who actually bogeyed No. 2 but birdied four of the next 16 inside 15 feet to storm ahead of the stellar international field.

Crowding him in the pivotal third round are players probably as surprised as the rest but eager to prove their worth for a rare stab at the crown worth P550,000 in the third leg of this year’s Philippine Golf Tour put up by ICTSI.

Salahog, just one behind first round leader Park Jun Sung of Korea, actually fell farther back with two bogeys in the first 10 holes but gunned down two birdies in the last three to salvage a 72 and stay just one shot behind Carlos at 140.

Bisera, a veteran campaigner never to seriously contend for a crown in a long pro career, also fell by as many as five with a three-over card after 15 holes. But the local bet birdied the last three holes for a 72 and tied Rates at 141.

Winless since nailing his maiden victory at John Hay in 2014, Rates actually took control of the stellar field with a sizzling three-under card after seven holes. But the diminutive shotmaker stumbled with bogeys on Nos. 8 and 11 and slid to joint third after a 71.

Long-hitting Marvin Dumandan, also seeking to end a long title spell, made full use of his power at the tight layout and eagled the par-5 13th and birdied No. 16, turning a two-over par round to a one-under 71 for a 142, just three shots off Carlos.

Albin Engino, winner of the pro-am side of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., rallied with a 69 after a 73 and joined Dumandan at fifth along with Reymon Jaraula, who slowed with a 73 after an opening 69.

Davaoeños Jay Bayron and Jhonnel Ababa and Jerson Balasabas from Zamboanga, three of the pre-tournament favorites, pooled identical 143 and trailed Carlos by four although experts maintained no lead is safe at the challenging layout, hinting at a big comeback by the big guns of PGT.

Bayron, who ended a two-year title drought with a victory at PGT Asia Southwoods two weeks ago, turned in a birdie-bogey stint for a 72; Ababa, winner of two PGT Asia legs last January, put on a strong finishing kick of three birdies in the last seven to shoot a 70; while Balasabas, eyeing a follow up to his Philippine Masters feat last May, leaned on a strong start of 34 to also fire a 70.

Joining the troika at eighth are American Lexus Keoninh (73), Koreans Kim Joo Hyung (71) and Lee Song (73), Mars Pucay (73), Elmer Salvador (73), and Park, who turned from awesome (bogey-free 67) to awful bogey-marred 76.

Park actually dropped two strokes right on the opening hole which he birdied Wednesday, and bogeyed No. 2 (missed green), and 8, 11 and 13 (all three putts) and needed to birdie two of the last three to save a four-over card.

“I played terribly bad – my putting was awful and I missed five greens. I just couldn’t do right out there,” rued the 32-year-old Korean.

Tony Lascuña, winner of the last PGT Apo leg in 2015, also rebounded with a 69 from a 75 he spiked with a closing eagle but the multi-titled former three-time Order of Merit winner lay five shots off the pace at 144 with James Ryan Lam and Arnold Villacencio, who both carded 73s.

Forty-six players made the cut at 148, including legend Frankie Miñoza who rallied with a 71, Mhark Fernando who fought back with a 69, and Ira Alido (75), Lucio Osabel (73), Gerald Rosales (74), Joseph Suarez (76), Orlan Sumcad (79) and amateur Kuresh Samanodi (77).

Notable casualties in the event backed BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT were PGT Eagle Ridge winner Guido Van der Valk of the Netherlands (77-149), Michael Bibat (75-151), last year’s PGT Calatagan leg winner Zanieboy Gialon (73-152.