John Michael O’Toole hit two improbable shots, including an ace on No. 12, as he shot a nine-under 63 to seize a two-stroke clubhouse lead over an unlikely contender in Robert Pactolerin at the start of the ICTSI Manila Southwoods Golf Championship in Carmona, Cavite on Tuesday.
O’Toole also blasted in a pitch-in eagle on the par-4 No. 5 and rattled off six birdies in a day of torrid scoring at the Legends layout where he owns the course record and which virtually lay defense-less in the absence of the wind that saw almost half of the starting 119-field break par.
He highlighted his 31-32 card with a solid 7-iron tee-shot on the 218-yard No. 12 that disappeared into the cup.
Jay Bayron sizzled in afternoon play with a tournament-best 30 at the front then sandwiched a bogey on No. 12 with back-to-back birdies to match O’Toole’s nine-under card before play was stopped for the second time in the day due to threats of lightning.
Pactolerin flashed vintage form and shot a seven-under 65 for solo third, Aussie Darren Beck gunned down seven birdies against a bogey for a 66 while Sydney Chung of the US, Jet Mathay and Dutch Guido Van der Valk all carded 67s with Zanieboy Gialon and Thai Teemu Putkonen turning in five-under cards with three holes to play and Zanieboy Gialon and Rufino Bayron also going five-under after 12 holes.
Jobim Carlos, fresh from his breakthrough win at Riviera last week, spiked his 68 with an eagle on No. 14 as he shared provision 12th place with Englishman Grant Jackson, American Cory Oride and Thai Puk Pradittan.
Angelo Que birdied three of the first six holes in impressive fashion but slowed down the rest of the way, mixing three more birdies with the same number of bogeys to lead the 69 scorers, who include Ira Alido, Michael Bibat, American Jacob Fleck and Aussie Tim Stewart. Salvador Paya Vila of Spain, Korean Lee Song and Indonesian Elki Kow also had three under card after 12 holes.
Fifty nine players submitted under-par cards at presstime with 13 others matching par to underscore the field’s scorching start at the bunker-laden layout.
O’Toole actually carried a 10-under card after birdying the par-5 17th but failed to keep his startling charge to the finish as he stumbled with a closing bogey that marred an otherwise flawless round in one of the early flights in the $100,000 third leg of the Philippine Golf Tour Asia put up by ICTSI.
But he left as soon as he signed his scorecard that also included four saved pars with the American shotmaker hoping to go all the way for a first crack at the championship after a couple of near-misses in the local circuit.
He actually fired a 10-under 61 in the second round of the same tournament in 2016 with the bunker-laden layout then set at par-71 but finished at joint fourth behind Malaysian Gavin Green. He contended in most of his stints in the local circuit but just couldn’t unleash a strong finishing kick that would merit a championship.
He would up tied at 16th in last Saturday’s ICTSI Riviera Championship won by Jobim Carlos.
But while O’Toole’s sizzling start hardly surprised the elite field, Pactolerin’s seven-under 65 made heads turn as the former many-time Masters champion flashed vintage form and turned in a scorching 31-34 round, spiked by five birdies in his closing stint at the front.
“I think I’m still at it. I can still it long. It’s just a question of right clubbing and making the putts,” said the 56-year-old Pactolerin, who actually holed out with a three-putt miscue on No. 11 but birdied three of the next six to get going.
With his long game complementing with his iron play, Pactolerin banged in five birdies inside five feet at the front, including a closing back-to-back feat to put himself in early contention in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“It’s been a while since I got into contention and I hope I could sustain this form,” said Pactolerin, who preserved his sterling start with three scrambling pars to be among in the crowded leaderboard of 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.