LIPA City, Batangas – Dino Villanueva went on a birdie-spree at the back early and held sway to the finish, producing a six-under 66 and gaining solo control by three over a late-charging Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia and Elmer Salvador halfway through the Summit Point World 18 Challenge here yesterday.
The 34-year-old journeyman from Cagayan de Oro ran off four straight birdies from No. 10, traded two birdies with the same number of bogeys in the next eight holes then capped his 34-32 card with birdies in the last two par-5s in near-ideal conditions at the Summit Point Golf Club.
“Nothing special but I hit my wedge shots pretty solid,” said Villanueva, who moved 36 holes away from finally nailing the elusive win in an 11-year pro career with an 11-under 133 total.
He stood three strokes clear off Salvador, who birdied four of the last six holes at the back to shoot a second 68 for a 136, which Stojanovski matched in one of the late flights behind a bogey-free, tournament-best 65, while Janne Kaske of Finland matched Villanueva’s six-under card for fourth at 137.
“But I need to toughen up in the last two days to clinch it. A victory will really make our Christmas happy,” added Villanueva, whose solid wedge shots set up birdie putts inside four feet in the first four holes. He banged in another on No. 16 then overcame a bogey-bogey mishap linking both nines with birdies on Nos. 2 and 5 before tapping in on the ninth after missing an eagle-putt from 20 feet off a 4-iron shot from 239 yards.
Joenard Rates, virtually out of the loop with a 72 start, got back into the groove with a stirring seven-birdie spree from No. 12. But after hitting his eighth birdie on No. 4, the diminutive shotmaker reeled back with back-to-back bogeys from No. 7, finishing with a 67 and dropping to joint fifth at 139 with Aussie Nathan Park, who also shot a 67, Jeremy Wendelken of the US (68), Micah Shin (69), Jobim Carlos (70) and first day co-leaders Erwin Arcillas and Thai Sutijet Kooratanapisan, who slowed down with 72s after a pair of 67s.
Anthony Fernando, Nilo Salahog and Taiwanese Wang Tsung Chieh all shot 69s while former PGTA winner Justin Quiban carded a 70 as they shared 12th place at 140 while Tony Lascuña blew a six-under card with three straight bogeys from No. 6 coming home, settling for a 69 for joint 16th at 141 with Aussie Jack Sullivan (67), Japanese Taisei Mochita (68), recent Luisita Invitational winner Clyde Mondilla (69) and Arnold Villacencio (70).