TAGAYTAY – Elmer Salvador kept pounding the international field and the Splendido Taal Golf Club with another splendid round of four-under 68, stretching his overnight three-stroke lead to five over a charging Rufino Bayron halfway through the rich ICTSI Splendido Classic here Thursday.
Japanese Toru Nakajima, who humbled the local aces to win the ICTSI Wack Wack crown last year, took the spotlight again by scoring a hole-in-one on No. 3 en route to a 68 that put him back into contention after a so-so opening 73.
Salvador bucked a bogey-par-bogey start at the back with a cluster of birdies – seven, including five straight from No. 16, that negated his third bogey on No. 3 and put the reticent Davaoeño shot-maker, who opened with a 65 Wednesday, way out in front at 11-under 133.
“Medyo masama ang simula pero inisip ko agad na bumawi, Eh ang ganda ng balik sa No. 16 hanggang 18, tapos sa uno at dos. Yun ang nagpakalma sa akin,” said Salvador, who posted a pair of 34s.
Bayron, still in the hunt for a first pro win after winning a pro tournament as an amateur in 2008, also shot a 68 to move to solo second at 138 while Tony Lascuña recovered from a poor 40 start at the back with four birdies in the last nine holes, salvaging a 72 but dropping to 140.
“Elmer has been hitting it well. We need to strike tomorrow and be able to cut his lead to stay in contention,” said Lascuña in Pilipino.
Clyde Mondilla, six behind at the start of the round, tried to give chase in the morning group but could only come up with a closing 32 for a 69 for joint third with Lascuna heading to the final 36 holes of the P1.5 million event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Frankie Miñoza, joint second with Lascuna at the start of the round, opened with back-to-back bogeys and struggled to finish with a 37-36 card for a 73, slipping to joint fifth at 141 with Charles Hong, Ferdie Aunzo and Nakajima.
Hong hit four birdies but fumbled with three bogeys for a 71, Aunzo rebounded from a 72 with a 69, while Nakajima banged an ace on the 130-yard third hole then added four birdies against two bogeys for that 68.
Swede qualifier Malcolm Kokocinski matched par 72 for a 143 in a tie with Rey Pagunsan and Paul Echavez, who shot a 68 and a 72, respectively, while the other fancied bets also made it to the final two rounds but stood too far behind Salvador.
They include Mars Pucay (69-144), Marvin Dumandan (73-144), Jay Bayron (67-144), Miguel Tabuena (75-147), Zanie Boy Gialon (73-147) and Carl Santos-Ocampo (76-147).
Cassius Casas, who made an atrocious 81 in the first round, hardly improved with a 76 and missed the cut. He was actually disqualified before the end of the round after signing a wrong scorecard. He immediately left after scoring a 5 on No. 9 instead of a 6 but rushed back to correct the mistake.
“I knew I made a mistake that’s why I rushed back only to find out that my scorecard has already been signed,” said Casas, who came off a missed-cut stint at Solaire Open after topping The Country Club Invitational last month.
The event is backed by Nike Golf, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp and FootJoy with Balls TV and ABS-CBN Sports+Action as media partners.