Zaragosa carves out 68 to lead by two in Iloilo

Rupert Zaragoza stays on track for a much-awaited breakthrough. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Rupert Zaragosa righted the ship late in his round on Thursday to rescue a two-under-par 68 that opened up a two-shot lead over rookie pro Elee Bisera after 36 holes of the P2.25 million ICTSI Iloilo Golf Challenge at age-old Sta. Barbara.

Coming into his final nine, the front, the 23-year-old Zaragosa birdied No. 6 before a run of pars the rest of the way for a 133, two ahead of the gutsy Bisera, the former national team standout who matched that 68 after draining four birdies.

Meanwhile, Daniella Uy closed out birdie-birdie for a 70 in steamy conditions and doubled her overnight three-stroke lead over Rianne Malixi after two rounds of the 54-hole, P875,000 ladies event.

With a 137 aggregate, Uy can put the finishing touches to a second pro win on Friday as Malixi lost significant ground with a 73.

It was the kind of poise that Zaragosa said on Wednesday he needs to finally triumph as a pro. He came close in 2021 in a bubble set up when he lost to Antonio Lascuña by four shots at Riviera.

Reigning Order of Merit winner Guido Van der Valk made a big move, shooting a 65 to catch Paul Echavez in a third place tie after the ex-caddy from Davao submitted a 67 for 136.

“I’m not going to pressure myself,” Zaragosa said. “I will just follow the game plan, my routine and hopefully, I’ll be able to produce good results [in the last two days].”

Lascuña carved out a 69 and the joint runner-up with Zaragosa in Bacolod last week trails the leader by six, even as Ferdie Aunzo, who started the day just a shot behind, ballooned to a 76 to now be nine adrift.

“I just took it shot-by-shot and hole-by-hole,” Bisera, a Davao native, said in Filipino. “I will just enjoy the game and have fun [in the next two days], and who knows?”

A total of 41 players made the halfway cut at 150, with Kristoffer Arevalo, another former PH Team member, returning an 80 and 77 to tally 167 and miss weekend play for the second straight tournament.

Justin Quiban, who returned from two respectable Asian Tour stints to see action here, fired a 75 for 148, with Ira Alido, the winner last week at Marapara, bowing out of contention after a 76 to be another shot behind Quiban’s five-man group.

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