ILOILO – Thai Kammalas Namuangruk emerged on top of a crowded leaderboard that kept changing names up to the last putt, his run of closing even-par cards at the front preserving a two-under 68 and netting him a one-stroke lead over Michael Bibat and three others halfway through the ICTSI Iloilo Golf Challenge here yesterday.
As first round leader Makoto Iwasaki of Japan turned from awesome (64) to awful (76) at the short but tricky Iloilo Golf and Country Club layout, Namuangruk took command with a four birdie-two bogey effort under drizzle although the lead changed hands a lot of times before the Thai found himself on top at 134 at the end of the topsy-turvy day.
But a slew of others lay just a stroke, two or three behind, guaranteeing a shootout in the last 36 holes of the P3-million tournament wrapping up the four-stage Visayan swing of the circuit put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“I hit it well and my putting was relatively good although the greens are difficult,” said Namuangruk, 27, who struggled and finished down at joint 29th in Negros Occidental last week. “But I have to make two more good rounds to win.”
Bibat shared the lead in one stretch with an eagle on one of the two par-5s on No. 4 and a birdie on the sixth but fumbled with three bogeys to settle for an even par 70. He dropped back to where he started – in joint second at 135, this time with Rene Menor and Spain’s Marcos Pastor, who submitted identical 66s, and Aussie Tim Stewart, who rallied with a 68.