Salvador wards off 3 rivals, keeps Riviera crown

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SILANG, Cavite – Elmer Salvador snapped a year-long title spell by keeping the ICTSI Riviera Classic crown, fending off Miguel Tabuena’s final day charge and Tony Lascuña and Rufino Bayron’s eagle-spiked backside rallies to win by two with a closing 71 at Riviera’s Langer course here Saturday.

Elmer Salvador beams as he holds his trophy after beating Miguel Tabuena, Tony Lascuna and Rufino Bayron to retain the ICTSI Riviera Classic crown.
Elmer Salvador beams as he holds his trophy after beating Miguel Tabuena, Tony Lascuna and Rufino Bayron to retain the ICTSI Riviera Classic crown.

Not even a wobbly start at the back could shake off Salvador, who came through with four gutsy pars in the closing holes to frustrate his rivals and secure the victory that meant so much for the reticent shotmaker who went on a slump after ruling this event, then part of the Asian Development Tour, last year.

“I’m very happy to win again here. The course was tough but I was thankful to have regained my form the last three days,” said Salvador, who hobbled with a one-over 72 in the first round but rebounded with a 67 to share the lead with Frankie Miñoza halfway through the P1.5 million event then surged ahead with a fiery 66 Friday and led Clyde Mondilla by three.

He wound up with an eight-under 276 worth P270,000.

Unlike in his five-stroke romp over Thai Pavit Tangkamolprasert and Peter Richardson of England last year, Salvador went through some anxious moments this time despite a solid 34 start as Lascuña, five strokes behind, pressed his bid with an eagle on No. 10 and birdies on Nos. 15 and 17, and Bayron, six shots adrift, also eagled the par-5 16th as the fellow Davaoeno aces moved within two.

But it was Tabuena who threatened to within one as the ICTSI Splendido leg winner went on a birdie-binge at the front en route to a 31, birdied the first two holes at the back then pounced on Salvador’s bogeys on Nos. 12 and 14.

From seven down after 54 holes, the young shotmaker moved to within one in a flight ahead with four holes left but failed to sustain his charge, bogeying the tricky par-3 17th and enabling Salvador to scoot to victory in the seventh leg of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.

Tabuena ended up with a 66 for a 278 for joint second with Bayron, who shot a 67, and Lascuña, who carded a 68, with the troika sharing the combined purse of P375,000 in the event sponsored by ICTSI.

Mondilla hardly recovered from a poor 38 start with a 35 for a 73, dropping to solo fifth at 281 worth P68,500 while Jay Bayron fired a 67 for sixth at 284 and Zanieboy Gialon shot the tournament-best 64, spiked by four straight birdies from No. 13, to tie Minoza, who made a 72, at seventh at 285.

Mars Pucay had a 73 and ended up ninth at 286 while Paul Echavez shot a 70 and finished 10th at 287 in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

“I knew Miguel and Rufino were closing in but I just stay focused and told myself to make the most of my birdie chances or go for pars,” said Salvador, who moved four strokes ahead of Lascuña and Tabuena with a birdie on No. 10.

But he missed the greens on Nos. 12 and 14 and failed to return a couple of six-footers for bogeys, enabling Lascuña, Rufino Bayron and Tabuena to close in.

Last year’s top amateur Japanese Yuto Katsuragawa matched par 71 and wound up tied for 14th with Korean Seok Jun Min, who fumbled with a 75, and took the low amateur honors.

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