Villacencio wrests lead » Manila Bulletin Sports

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ANTIPOLO – Veteran Arnold Villacencio blitzed the backside with four birdies and sizzled at the finish for a six-under 65 as he wrested a two-shot lead over young Ira Alido at the start of the ICTSI Forest Hills Championship at the Forest Hills Golf and Country Club here yesterday.

Villacencio, whose game took a downswing after scoring his maiden win at Summit Point in 2014, surprised the field with his hot start then capped his big surge with two birdies in the last four holes to string a 33-32 card and set the pace in a day of changing fortunes despite benign condition at the Nicklaus layout.

“I played a fantastic round. Everything was in place, including my putting,” said Villacencio, who also flashed a near-impeccable short game where he rescued pars in seven times that he went out of regulation to seize control in the R3-million event sponsored by ICTSI.

But he expects the rest to make their move in today’s second round where the top 40 plus ties will advance to the final 36 holes of the tournament staking a whopping R550,000 to the winner on Saturday.

“Hopefully, I maintain my game and win,” said Villacencio, out to end a long title spell and string of missed cut stints.

Clyde Mondilla best typified the sudden shift of fates in scorching heat as the two-leg winner threatened to dominate the field with an eagle-spiked five-under 30 start. But the back-to-back winner at Southwoods and Villamor lost his touch and focus at the back, dropping two strokes on the par-5 No. 10, reeled with three straight bogeys from No. 13 then holed out with a double-bogey on the 18th.

From the top of the 73-player heap, the Del Monte ace tumbled to joint 26th at 73, eight shots off the pace in the early going of the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Alido also eagled the reachable par-5 No. 6 and birdied No. 8 to shoot a 67 in another impressive start for the rookie pro out to atone for his failed bid at Orchard last May where he co-led in the first round with a 68 but missed the cut with a second round 85.

“I played pretty good and my short game and putting clicked,” said Alido who also came through with three scrambling pars to put himself again in early contention. “I learned my lesson at Orchard and I swear, it won’t happen again.”

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