MIKHA FORTUNA battled Yvon Bisera shot-for-shot and putt-for-putt in a furious frontside duel then came out of a bungling backside skirmish as the steadier player to salvage a 71 and force a tie for the lead after 36 holes of the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) South Pacific Classic in Davao City on Wednesday.
Fortuna matched the local ace’s three-birdie splurge in the first nine holes and was a shot behind but charged back from two-down after a bogey on No. 10 to equal Bisera’s 143 aggregate after she holed out with a bogey on the long par-five 18th for a 72.
That set the stage for a final 18-hole shootout for the top P125,000 purse between two players in hot pursuit of a maiden Ladies Philippine Golf Tour (LPGT) win with one-time winner Sarah Ababa lurking just three shots back at 146 after a second 73 at the South Pacific Golf and Leisure Estates.
“Seeing how Yvon and Sarah play, I think I have a big chance to get the title,” said Fortuna, without sounding too confident. “The goal is to win this week but I’m not thinking about it. I just have to stick to my game plan.”
So does Bisera, who despite her last-hole mishap remained upbeat of her chances not because of her familiarity with the course but due to her big drives that kept on finding their targets in the first two days.
“I think my edge is on my driving, it’s pretty steady and I’ve been hitting the fairways the past two days,” said Bisera in Filipino. “I just hope to sustain my long game and for my putting to click.”
While admitting that the pressure to deliver at home is mounting, Bisera stressed: “I will just play my game, hit the fairways and greens and avoid three-putts.”
Truly, the outcome would most probably be decided on South Pacific’s last line of defense given its sloping surfaces and tough pin placements that continued to bedevil the games of the rest of the field.
They include Korean Seoyun Kim and Apple Fudolin, who carded 73 and 74, respectively, to share fourth place at 148 even as Daniella Uy’s bid for a third straight championship gained a slight boost after a 71.
The back-to-back winner at Forest Hills and at Del Monte, however, will have a huge block to hurdle to carry out her mission as she stayed too far behind at 149 at sixth, six strokes off the joint leader.
Pamela Mariano turned in a 74 for a 150 while Luisita and Villamor legs winner Harmie Constantino hardly improved from a 76 with a 75 for 151 and amateur Mafy Singson, who dominated the Valley stop, carded a 74 for joint ninth at 154 with Gretchen Villacencio, who made a 76.
That should put focus on the Bisera-Fortuna face-off with both looking to build momentum and put pressure on the other right in the first nine holes.
“I like playing at the frontside. For me, mas mahirap ang backnine kasi may mga crucial holes na lamang sa bogeys,” added Bisera, who actually flubbed birdie chances in the first three holes, including a three-foot putt bid on No. 1.
After a second straight 33 at the front, Bisera tripped with bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14 and failed to hold sway with another miscue on the last hole.
“I think approach shots and putting are the key. I just have to put the ball on good spots and see what happens,” said Fortuna, who is also using this tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by PGTI’s official apparel Kampfortis Golf as part of her buildup for her Japan campaign.
“If ever I win, it would be good, I will be qualifying for Japan next week and it would be a good momentum for me,” said Fortuna, who competed in 11 events in her senior year at Oklahoma University.
One stroke behind Bisera after 18 holes in scorching conditions Tuesday, their position remained unchanged after a pair of solid three-under cards. But Fortuna fell by two with a bogey on the 10th, traded bogey with the home bet on No. 13 then parred the rest of the way.
“It would be nice (to win) but I’m not going to think about that. If it happens, it happens,” said Fortuna.