SILANG, Cavite – Elmer Salvador sizzled in the afternoon drizzle and ended up on top with a blistering five-under 66, outdueling Pavit Tangkamolprasert in a backside shootout to wrest a one-stroke lead over the Thai and ageless Robert Pactolerin in the third round of the ICTSI Riviera Classic at Langer course here Friday.
Three off the pace at the start of another wet day, Salvador bucked poor driving and a bogey-mishap on No. 2 with solid iron play and superb putting, gunning down a birdie on the third then hitting four straight birdies linking both nines to storm past flightmate Tangkamolprasert and the rest of the 52-player field which survived the halfway cut in a wild first two days of the $60,000 event.
The reticent Davaoeño shot-maker, seeking to snap a year-long drought after retaining the Aboitiz Invitational crown, also an ADT leg, in Cebu last year, rammed in another birdie from seven feet on No. 15 to cap a sterling 33-33 round on a softened course that yielded a slew of under-par rounds.
“I struggled with my driving but my irons and putting were okay,” said Salvador, who produced gutsy rounds of 69 and 70 in severe condition in the first two days for a 54-hole haul of eight-under-par 205. “I needed to focus on the yardage and pin placements since it has been pretty hard the first two days.”
Tangkamolprasert, in third-to-the-last flight with Salvador and England’s Peter Richardson, bettered Salvador’s backside stint with a 32 to finish with a 67 and a 206 matched later by Pactolerin, who birdied the last hole for 68.
The former Philippine Open champion and many-time Phl Masters winner, who last won in 2011 in Bacolod, continued to defy the odds and Father time, birdying three of the last six holes in amazing fashion to put himself in contention for the top $10,500 purse in this tournament sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
“My irons clicked, giving me some birdie chances from close range,” said Pactolerin in Pilipino, who birdied Nos. 8, 10, 13, 15 and 18 inside four feet to negate his three-putt bogeys on Nos. 9 and 11. “I just hope to sustain my form and I leave all my fate to Him.”
Tangkamolprasert, who has posted a runner-up and third place finishes in the first five legs of the ADT, both in Malaysia, went on a rollercoaster ride of par-bogey-birdie, par-bogey-birdie in the first six holes before setting down with four pars. He birdied No. 11 then fired three more on Nos. 13, 15 and 18 to move him a stroke off Salvador.
India’s Shubhankar Sharma, who birdied No. 18 early morning to complete his second round 67 and take a one-shot lead, blew a three-under card after 10 holes with two bogeys and a double bogey in the last eight holes, hobbling with a one-over 72 to drop to joint fifth at 209 with first day co-leader Nils Floren of Sweden, who fought back with a 68.
Thai Pijit Petchkasem matched Salvador’s six-under card to move to solo fourth at 208, while Jay Bayron rallied with a 67 to join Malaysian Arie Irawan, who also made a 67, and Miguel Tabuena, who matched par 71, at 210.
The rest fell farther behind with Cebuano Charles Hong struggling with a 73 for a 211 in a tie with Richardson, who turned in a 72 while pre-tournament favorite Tony Lascuña struck back with a 67 to pool an even 213 in a tie with Aussie Darren Tan, who made a 71, and Grant Jackson of England, who carded a 72.
But no lead is safe at Langer with Salvador bracing for a strong challenge from Tangkamolprasert and sentimental favorite Pactolerin and those behind them, including Petchkasem, Sharma and Floren.
“No lead is safe here at Langer and I have to play a solid game to win,” said Salvador, who failed to return a six-footer for par on the second hole but bounced back strong with a cluster of birdies, including a four-footer on No. 3.
After a spate of regulation pars, Salvador rolled in a 13-foot birdie putt on No. 8, followed it up with a long putt from 25 feet on the next then banged in an eight-footer and a four-footer at the back before holing out with his sixth birdie from seven feet on No. 15.
“It will be tough but I’m confident of my chances. It’s been a while since I last won,” said Salvador.
The other backers of the event, serving as the sixth leg of the ADT and the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, are Nike Golf, Pacsports Phils. Inc., Srixon, Callaway, Mizuno, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp and KZG with ABS-CBN Sports & Action, Balls and Inquirer Golf as media partners.