Rufino Bayron and Spain’s Marcos Pastor matched outputs in varying fashions for the second straight day, staying ahead with three-under 67s but fancied Juvic Pagunsan and Ira Alido charged back with 65s to pull within one halfway through the ICTSI Bacolod Golf Challenge here yesterday.

Bayron actually rode on a late birdie at the front to save a 32-35 while Pastor missed grabbing the solo lead with a bogey on the 18th and settled for a 33-34 in the wind and heat in afternoon play as the duo dropped erstwhile co-leaders Michael Bibat and Reymon Jaraula to remain on top at eight-under 132s.

bayron22b 640x440 - Bayron, Pastor stay at helm

Rufino Bayron

But Pagunsan and Alido assembled identical 133s, Richard Sinfuego slowed down with a 69 for a 135, and Bibat and Jaraula lost their touch and fumbled with one-over 71s but stayed within striking distance at 136s with 36 holes to play in the P2.5 million event serving as the second of a four-stage Visayan swing of the circuit sponsored by ICTSI.

“It’s tough playing in the heat and with the wind picking up in the afternoon,” said Bayron, who hit two birdies but made two bogeys at the back before shooting three birdies in the first five holes at the front.

“I was able to recover at the front though I overshot the green on No. 6 and made another bogey. But I liked my chances,” added Bayron, who birdied the seventh to save a 67 and remain on course of ending a long title spell on the Philippine Golf Tour.

Unfamiliar with the short but tight and tricky Bacolod Golf Club layout, the Spanish shotmaker banked on the local pros’ tips to negate his bogeys on Nos. 1 and 18 with five birdies in a 12-hole stretch from No. 5, bolstering his drive for a maiden victory in the circuit put up by ICTSI after topping the PGT Q-School for foreign players at Splendido last February.

“Some local pros told me how to play the course where some fairways are soft and some are hard,” said Pastor. “I played so aggressive off the tee and most of my drives were good.”

Pagunsan and Alido actually dished out better games with the former, who started at the back, putting himself in contention with a five-under card he highlighted with an eagle-2 on the drivable 304-yard, par-4 No. 2 off a solid 5-wood tee shot that rested 20 feet off the cup.

He did stumble with a bogey on the fourth but holed out with another birdie for a 32-33 round.

“I just stayed focused on my game but we’ll know tomorrow (today) if I’ll get a chance (for the championship),” said Pagunsan, who took a break from the Japan PGA Tour to prime up for his defense of the ICTSI Negros Occidental crown next week.

For his part, Alido earlier razed the backside with five birdies, including four straight from No. 14, as he moved from joint eighth to a share of third for a crack at breakthrough victory on the PGT following a missed cut stint in last week’s Club Filipino de Cebu Invitational.

After a two-birdie, two-bogey game at the front, Alido finally made full use of his driver, which he complemented with a superb iron game to produce birdies at the back. He hit all but one green and missed just two fairways to complete a 35-30 card at the par-70 layout for a seven-under 133 aggregate.

But what motivates the former amateur hotshot is the rare chance to slug it out with fancied Pagunsan in one of the featured flights in the pivotal third round of the P2.5 million championship serving as the second of a four-stage Visayan swing of the circuit sponsored by ICTSI.

“I’m so excited to play with Juvic. And I think that is my reward for playing well. Going up against him only makes me so inspired,” said Alido.

Forty-three players made the cut pegged at 143, including Richard Abaring (72), Kris Etter (69), Enrico Gallardo (70), Colombia’s Mateo Gomez (70), Swede Oscar Karlsson (73), Elmer Saban (72) and Aussie Jack Sullivan (74).

But the likes of PGT Asia leg winners Joenard Rates and James Ryan Lam, who both groped for 73s, and last year winner and PGTA titlist Justin Quiban, who struggled with a 72, failed to advance with 144s, along with Frankie Miñoza (73-147).

Staying in the title hunt at 137 are Aussie Fidel Concepcion (68), Rico Depilo (70), Mhark Fernando (66), Arnold Villacencio (70) and last week’s CFdC Invitational winner Guido Van der Valk, who rallied with a 66, while Tony Lascuña (67), Johvanie Abaño (68), Japanese Ryo Nishimura (68), Elmer Salvador (67) and Macedonia’s Peter Stojanovski (70) assembled identical 138s.

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