SILANG, Cavite – Elmer Salvador sustained a day-long brilliance to shoot a 67 while Frankie Miñoza nearly blew a solid backside start with a late bogey for a 68 as they grabbed the lead halfway through the ICTSI Riviera Classic at Riviera’s Langer course here Thursday.
Salvador gunned down six birdies to negate a two-bogey mishap as he recalled the form that netted him a runaway victory here last year while pouncing on Miñoza’s unlikely flubbed par-putt from three feet on No. 5 that tied the duo at three-under 139 heading to the last 36 holes of the P1.5 million event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Overnight joint leaders Benjie Magada and Tony Lascuña reeled back with faltering finishes at the tough layout which punishes wayward shots with the former holing out with a double-bogey on the ninth for a 73 and the latter hitting an errant approach shot twice on No. 11 and wound up with a quadruple bogey 8 for a 74.
With a 142, Magada slid to joint fifth with Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who fired a 69, Keanu Jahns, who shot a 70, Rufino Bayron, who carded a 71, and Zanieboy Gialon, who matched par 71, while Lascuña, who also three-putted No. 14, dropped to a share of 10th with Korean Seok Jun Min, who turned in a 72.
Clyde Mondilla missed forcing a three-way tie at the helm with a bogey on No. 9 for a second straight 70 and solo third at 140 while Mars Pucay almost put to naught a sizzling 32 start at the back with a shaky 38 for a 70 and a 141.
“I thought of making my move now and I’m happy my overall game clicked,” said Salvador, who bounced back from a poor opening round windup of 39-72 with a 34 with birdies on Nos. 12, 16 and 17 against a second straight bogey on the difficult No. 14. He rolled in two straight birdies from No. 2, dropped a shot on the par-5 No. 5 then rammed in another birdie on the sixth for a 33.
Miñoza, enjoying top form in the last four legs of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, including a run of under-par rounds to finish sixth at ICTSI Luisita last month, showed he still got what it takes to contend, taming Langer’s backside with a 32, highlighted by a three-birdie string from No. 15.
But he missed a couple of birdie chances at the front and muffed that par-putt bid from close range on No. 5 to settle for a share of the lead.
“It’s really tough to predict a game in golf. Just when you thought it’s going to be fine, suddenly your game makes a turnaround. I had a good start at the back but after nine holes, it was different,” said Miñoza, also out to snap a long title drought. “For me, I’ll just continue to fight.”
To fight back will also be Lascuña and Magada’s battlecry in the last two days as the duo tries to rebound and re-join the chase for the top P270,000 purse in the seventh leg of the circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
“I had a perfect 3-wood tee-shot on No. 11 but hit my approach shot behind and into the hazard. Another poor pitch sent the ball into the hazard,” rued Lascuña. “But I’ll fight back.”
Like in the first round, Magada had a shaky start with three straight bogeys at the back. Unlike in the opening day, however, where he recovered with five birdies against one more bogey for a 69, he failed to sustain his four-birdie effort against another bogey as he holed out with a double-bogey on No. 9 for that 73.