Young Korean leads Masters by a stroke

Young Korean leads Masters by a stroke

Hyun Ho-rho (photo above) is all smiles after acing the fourth hole of Villamor on the way to an opening round 67. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The young guns grabbed the spotlight on a course where experience usually thrives, as South Korean Hyun Ho-rho spiked a flawless five-under-par 67 with his first professional ace to take a one-shot lead after the opening round of the ICTSI Villamor Philippine Masters on Wednesday.

Rho scrambled well enough on the unpredictable greens of the military layout for some clutch par saves and be in the lead of one of the most prestigious events in the country with Ryan Monsalve a stroke behind and Aidric Chan another shot back.

The only veteran in the top five—and the last to crack par on a humid day—was The Netherlands’ Guido van der Valk, who signed for a 71 like LJ Go despite dropping a shot on the par-5 18th.

“I wasn’t really putting well, but I was lucky to sink my par putts,” said Rho, who used a 5-iron and Titleist No. 2 ball in acing the 194-yard fourth hole. The 2023 Q-School topnotcher is in his best start this year, having finished 15th at Apo before missing the cut at Palos Verdes and most recently, finishing in a 36th place tie at Caliraya Springs.

Defending champion Jonel Ababa struggled to shoot a 75 marred by a wet double bogey 5 on the 12th hole, while Antonio Lascuña, the match play winner at the same layout two years back, signed for a bogey-riddled 73.

Angelo Que had a very lukewarm round made up of 17 pars and a bogey that came on the 16th, even as 12 players led by 2018 champion Jessie Balasabas returned 72s to be just five behind.

Villamor remains to be one of the toughest tests in the land because of its narrow fairways and tree-lined roughs that can really wear players down.

And Rho shooting a bogey-less round simply stands out as a spectacular feat.

“I’m just going to enjoy my game, do my best and hope for the best,” Rho said. INQ

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