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Golf: Korean-Am Micah Shin holds clubhouse lead

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LIPA City – Micah Shin took charge in a day of torrid scoring, coming away with a four-birdie spree on both nines to set a new course record 64 and seize a two-stroke clubhouse lead over Englishman Joe Knox at the start of the ICTSI Summit Point World 18 Challenge Wednesday at Summit Point here.

Micah Shin dominates with solid eight-under start

Micah Shin dominates with solid eight-under start.

The lanky Korean-American actually came into the $100,000 Philippine Golf Tour Asia event without any expectations following a so-so showing in his return stint on the local circuit two weeks ago but thrived in the privacy of one of the early flights and racked up three straight birdies from No. 3 to spark a binge on a course that features 18 of the world’s most renowned golf holes.

“I had not been playing well lately and came here just trying to get back my feel,” said Shin, who shared 12th place in the ICTSI South Pacific Classic of the PGT in Davao and tied for 18th in the CAT Open of the PGT Asia at Luisita last week following a long campaign abroad.

The Davao-based shotmaker, who has posted three big victories the last three years – the CAT Open in Luisita in 2016, in a regional tour event in 2017, and in The Country Club Invitational last year – missed five fairways in hot conditions but flashed superb iron shots to reach two of the five par-5s, four of which he birdied.

He kept an unblemished card by saving par on the par-4 No. 15, the only green he missed in a day when the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed layout yielded 23 under par scores in morning play in the absence of the wind.

“A couple of 65s were posted here last year, so his (Shin’s) 64 stands as the new course record,” said Summit Point general manager Vic de Guzman.

Knox also knocked in three birdies in row from No. 3 and took the early lead with another birdie on No. 7 and an eagle on the ninth for an opening 30. But the Englishman, who missed the CAT Open cut last week, dropped two strokes on No. 11 and needed to birdie Nos. 13 and 16 to assume the early challenger’s role in the season-ending tournament of Asia’s emerging circuit put up by ICTSI and backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High.

Clyde Mondilla also eagled the reachable No. 9 but the reigning Philippine Open, coming off a pair of strong finishes in the last two weeks, including a playoff loss to Aussie Tim Stewart last week, failed to match flightmate Shin’s sizzling start, settling for a 67 for joint third with Aussie Jack Lane-Weston and Japanese Rio Mori.

Chonlatit Chuenboonngam took the cudgels for the seven-man Thai contingent that includes PGTA Luisita leg winner Namchok Tantipokhakul and Wisut Artjanawat, who topped the first PGTA event abroad in Taiwan last May, putting up a pair of 34s for joint sixth with Anthony Fernando while former Aboitiz Invitational champion Damien Jordan, also from Down Under, carded a bogey-free 69 for joint eighth with obscure Teodoro Osabel and Japanese Yuta Sudo.

Jhonnel Ababa, the winningest player on the PGTA with four victories, birdied two of the last nine holes to save a 70 for a share of 11th with Englishman George Twyman, Rupert Zaragosa, Albin Engino, Zanieboy Gialon and Thai Lertvilai Pasavee while Juvic Pagunsan, holder of a record four-straight title romp in the PGT, struggled with his putter and missed nine birdie chances inside 10 feet, finishing with a two-birdie, one-bogey game for a 71, seven strokes off Shin.

Other one-under par scorers were recent Aboitiz winner Can Tarik of the US, JR Salahog, Marvin Dumandan, Japanese Issei Mori and Aussie David Gleeson, another former PGT Asia leg winner at Luisita.

But nobody came close to matching Shin’s brilliant start.

He actually flubbed a four-footer for birdie on the opening hole but banged in a birdie from just about the same distance on the third to ignite a run, that included a three-footer on the next, a five-footer on No. 5, a tap-in on the seventh, and another four-footer on No. 10.

He missed two eagle chances on Nos. 14 and 16 then closed out with another “gimme” on the 18th to match his career-best eight-under card he shot during the first round of the Resorts World Masters at Southwoods.

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