Bibat, Becierra tie Van der Valk at helm

Michael Bibat and Dante Becierra came through with a pair of four-under 67s to catch opening day leader Guido Van der Valk at the helm for a one-stroke lead over unheralded Elmer Saban in the second round of the P1 million ICTSI Rancho Palos Verdes Classic at Rancho Palos Verdes Golf and Recreational Estates on Thursday.

Bibat, outgunned by Van der Valk in their opening day shootout, got back at the Dutch ace, ratting off three birdies in the last six holes to complete a 34-33 card and match Van der Valk’s seven-under output after the erstwhile solo leader slowed down with a 69 after an impressive 66.

“My short irons clicked and also I have started to get used to the speed of the greens, that’s the most important thing,” said the Srixon-backed Bibat, the former Asian Games bronze medalist whose best finish in five years was fifth at Southwoods in 2008.

Becierra, a former Hong Kong Amateur Open champion, leaned on an strong at the back and went on to fire six birdies in the first 13 holes to momentarily seize the solo lead at eight-under with a birdie on No. 4. But he missed the green on the next and wound up with a bogey before parring the last four holes for a 32-35.

Saban, perhaps the least from among a slew of local bets to ever figure for the title race in the 54-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI, also shot a 67 to grab solo fourth at 136, just one stroke behind, while Jay Bayron, another local ace, carded a bogey-free 69 for solo fifth at 137.

With Charles Hong and Rufino Bayron joining Elmer Salvador and Anthony Fernando at 138 after a 66 and 68, respectively, the battle for the top P200,000 purse could go down to the last putt.

Van der Valk survived his game-long struggle with his putter and was lucky to remain in the title hunt in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

“Today (yesterday) I really played nice but failed to cash in my putts. That would have made the difference if I made some of it,” he said.

Salvador birdied No. 1 then recovered from a bogey-bogey mishap from No. 3 with four birdies in the last 13 holes, including three straight from No. 6 as he shot a 68 while Fernando, the former national champion also seeking a breakthrough win as a pro, carded a 70.

Frankie Minoza, who matched par in the first round, missed joining the 138 group with a closing bogey on No. 9 for a 68, dropping to fifth at 139 in a tie with Cassius Casas and Edward Reyes, who both had 68s, Reymon Jaraula.

Other three-under overall scorers were Edward Reyes, the third man in the Bibat-Van der Valk flight who shot a 68, and unheralded Reymon Jaraula, who shot a 69, and Rolando Marabe, who turned in a 70.

Defending champion Carl Santos-Ocampo made a 69 but remained too far behind at 140, five strokes adrift, in the company of Clyde Mondilla and Paul Minoza, who had 67s, and Tony Lascuna, Richard Sinfuego, Rey Pagunsan, Benjie Magada and Jun Bernis, who all had 69s, and Mhark Fernando and Rene Menor, who settled for 71s.

Amateur LJ Go, who started the round in second just a stroke off Van der Valk, sputtered with a 73 and dropped to the big group of 140 scorers.

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