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Guido, 3 others pace TCC

STA. ROSA, Laguna — Even in the absence of winds, The Country Club still proved to be a tough hurdle due to its sheer length — 7,652 yards.

“It’s such a hard golf course that anything around par feels like a victory. So I’m happy with a 73,” said defending champion Guido Van der Valk who joined a four-way logjam on top Monday.

“I struggled a bit with green-reading but most guys would’ve had the same problem. Hopefully in the next few days, I can adjust a little.”

Van der Valk did a good job saving pars, making only two bogeys against a lone birdie.

Jay Bayron, trying to end a long slump, birdied the finishing hole to salvage a 73, the same score posted by Clyde Mondilla and Jerson Balasabas.

He set up the birdie with two brilliant shots against the wind. He was only one of two players who birdied the water-laced hole.

Bayron collected four birdies against three bogeys and a double bogey.

“I didn’t expect to be in the lead but I hope to keep going up to the last day,” said Bayron, who with brother Rufino lost to Frankie Minoza in sudden death here in 2013.

A birdie from the bunker on 9 got Bayron going.

“It (birdie) boosted my confidence and from there I regained my touch and birdied Nos. 12 and 14,” he said.

Mondilla, who won the Philippine Open here in 2019, struggled on the greens but was happy to finish one-over par.

“It was a good game but made some mistakes in reading the greens. There was little wind so it was easier to play. Overall, it was okay, there were holes that I made some bad putts,” he said.

Balasabas’ bid for the solo lead was dashed by a closing bogey.

The finishing hole, a par-4, measures 476 yards.

The former Philippine Masters champion opened with a birdie and birdied three of the four par-5 holes but stumbled with bogeys on 6, 9, 11 and 18.

“A one-over round is a good score here. My target is to make par on every hole, making a birdie is a bonus,” said Balasabas, who reached the par-5 10th on two but three-putted for par.

The kickoff tournament of the Philippine Golf Tour season offers P6 million in cash prizes.

Three others matched 74s — Jhonnel Ababa, Marvin Dumandan, and Mars Pucay — all finishing with bogeys.

Michael Bibat missed a chance to share a view of the top after dropping two shots on 18 for 75 in a tie with Albin Engino, Sean Ramos and Rupert Zaragosa.

Ramos looked poised to upstage the big guns with his stellar play after 11 holes but faded with bogeys on 15 and 16 and a triple bogey on 18.

Alido accounted for the only other birdie on 18 to salvage a 76 and a share of 12th with Art Arbole and Lloyd Jefferson Go.

The first-round results:
73 — Jerson Balasabas, Jay Bayron, Clyde Mondilla, Guido van der Valk
74 — Jhonnel Ababa, Marvin Dumandan, Mars Pucay
75 — Michael Bibat, Albin Engino, Sean Jean Ramos, Rupert Zaragosa
76 — Ira Christian Alido, Art Arbole, Lloyd Jefferson Go
77 — Jeonard Rates, Zanieboy Gialon, Tony Lascuña, Frankie Minoza, Gerald Rosales, Micah Shin
79 — Rico Depilo, Orlan Sumcad
80 — Fidel Concepcion
81 — Paul Echavez, Dino Villanueva
82 — Eric Gallardo, Richard Sinfuego
85 — Dan Emilio Cruz, Reymon Jaraula
88 — Anthony Fernando.

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