CANLUBANG , Philippines – Sam Brazel of Australia and James Ryan Lam of the Philippines played steady on a hot and windy day to share the opening-day lead in the second Solaire Open here.
They carded identical rounds of five-under-par 66s and will head into the second round as the men to watch in this $300,000 event at The Country Club, a wide-open layout.
Things will just get tougher for everybody starting today.
Miguel Tabuena, the young Filipino golfer, and Rikard Karlberg of Sweden are just a stroke behind at 67. Then a couple more locals, Zanie Boy Gialon and Jessie Balasbas, joined four others at 68.
Brazel knows what to do.
“I just have to be consistent I guess,” said the 36-year-old Brazel, who already had six birdies and stood as the solo leader with five holes to play.
But he bogeyed the par-4 16th and had to settle for a share of the lead with the 25-year-old Lam who surprised a lot of people with his round, including himself.
Lam, who said he often played the TCC layout when he was still part of the ICTSI golf program, spiked his bogey-free round with five birdies in the opener of the second leg of the Asian Tour event sponsored by Solaire Resort and Casino and backed by DMCI Homes, BDO, PLDT and Meralco.
Lam birdied “Nos. 1, 7, 11, 14 and 18.”
Lam said he had a spectacular shot on the 18th, his ninth hole for the day, when he pitched in from 40 feet outside the green.
“I just wanted to get it close but it went in. This is my best round so far on this course,” said Lam, who pulled out his driver only nine times the entire round.
“I’m happy with five-under. At the start of the round I didn’t even think about shooting five-under or even par. I just thought of going a couple over. I didn’t want to expect much,” he said.
Like Lam, the 19-year-old Tabuena never had it so good at The Country Club.
“This is my best round here. I’ve been playing here four years and this is my best round,” he said.
Tabuena had chip-ins on the 8th and 16th holes from as far as 40 feet. He said he didn’t expect much for the day.
“The plan was to go one-under in front and one-under at the back for a two-under. This is a good start,” said Tabuena, who prepared hard by playing at the TCC almost every day the past three weeks.
“It’s just paying off,” he said.
Defending champion Lin Wen-tang of Chinese-Taipei, 2011 Philippine Open winner Berry Henson of the United States, 18-year-old Jazz Janetwattananond of Thailand and surging Tony Lascuña of the Philippines joined a big group at 70.
Frankie Miñoza, always worth watching, submitted a 73, the same card put in by Filipinos Jay Bayron and Mars Pucay, and many others.
Angelo Que, a three-time champion at TCC, also stood at one-under for the day.
He wasn’t happy but didn’t sound disappointed as well.
“It’s just the first round. Even if you’re four or five down anything can happen,” said Que, who has this penchant for come-from-behind victories.
Que said of the three titles he won here, only once did he lead from the start.
“Whether you are leading or trailing you need to work hard for it. Anybody in contention will have to give his all. If you win, then it was meant to be,” said the three-time winner in the Asian Tour.
For Que, it’s too early to push the panic button.