Rufino Bayron, out to atone for his final round foldup last year, put on a strong start and took charge with a five-under 67, one stroke ahead of Angelo Que and Tony Lascuña while six others shot identical 69s in a furious start in the P2 million ICTSI Splendido Classic at Splendido Taal Golf Club in Tagaytay Wednesday.
Bayron, who crumbled with a closing 79 that enabled brother Jay to snatch the crown here last year, sizzled coming off a long break, birdying three of the first four holes at the back where he started then added three more at the front to negate a missed-green bogey mishap on the par-3 No. 8 for a 34-33 card.
Que, a three-time Asian Tour winner but on a long winless spell, also waxed hot at the back, hitting three birdies before ramming in back-to-back birdies from No. 1. He, however, failed to join Bayron at the helm with a bogey on the seventh.
Lascuña, the reigning three-time Order of Merit champion, launched his bid for a fourth straight crown in emphatic fashion, drilling in four birdies in the first six holes in one of the late flights. He reeled back with a bogey on No. 10 but tied Bayron for a while with birdies on Nos. 11 and 13.
But the ace Davaoeño shotmaker hit a wayward shot on the next and missed a six-footer for bogey and fell off the leaderboard although bounced back to join Que at second with a birdie on the 16th.
Jay Bayron also missed catching up with Que and Lascuna with a bogey on the par-5 18th but the defending champion still led a crack roster of pursuers at 69 that includes Elmer Salvador, Dante Becierra, Michael Bibat, Rico Depilo and Lee Hyun Woo.
Miguel Tabuena, winner at Manila Masters at Eastridge last year, failed to match the big guns’ big starts as he settled for pars in the first 10 holes. He birdied the par-5 11th but dropped a shot on No. 13 before closing out with two birdies in the last four holes to salvage a 70.
The two-over par scorers are Keanu Jahns, Benjie Magada, Carl Santos-Ocampo and Dutch Guido Van der Valk while Cassius Casas, who won two events last year at the TCC Invitational and in Iloilo, bogeyed No. 17 and turned in a 71 for joint 15th with Koreans Jung Yong Hun and Thomas Kim.
Clyde Mondilla, one of the four first-time leg winners last year at Canlubang, struggled with an even par 72 to fall in the group of Japanese Toru Nakajima, John Rey Pactolerin, Gyuha Park, Edward Reyes and Orlan Sumcad.