DAVAO CITY – Miguel Tabuena surged ahead and zeroed in on a back-to-back championship, Tony Lascuña charged back and moved closer to ending a winless campaign and Elmer Salvador sustained his fightback and gained a crack for a second crown.
As erstwhile joint leaders Frankie Miñoza and Jay Bayron wavered in tough conditions and unheralded Nilo Salahog cracked under pressure and tumbled with over par scores, Tabuena, Lascuña and Salvador took the top three posts with solid rounds to set up what promises to be a shootout for the ICTSI Apo Golf Invitational crown at the Apo Golf and Country Club here Friday.
Tabuena, four shots behind Miñoza and Bayron halfway through the P1.5 million championship, withstood a bogey-bogey start and overcame a six-stroke deficit with six birdies in an 11-hole stretch from No. 3 then bucked a bogey on No. 14 with a final hole birdie, capping a 35-33 card and a 68 that shoved him to the top at six-under 210.
“The conditions were tough but it’s a good thing that I was able to recover from a bad start with a strong finish,” said Tabuena, who nipped Salvador by one to capture the ICTSI Palos Verdes crown last week.
This time, however, the young gun, who also won the kickoff leg at Splendido, would be facing not just one Davaoeño ace but two for a shot at a third championship.
Lascuña, the reigning three-time Order of Merit champion, also had a shaky start of 38 but put on a stronger windup, a 31 spiked by a four-birdie string from No. 12 to salvage a 69 that put him just a stroke off Tabuena at 211.
“I thought it would be another so-so round. But I was able to recover at the back and came through with the shots and putts that I wanted,” said Lascuna, who won five legs last year but remained winless after eight legs of this year’s circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
Salvador, a runaway winner at ICTSI Riviera three weeks ago, matched Tabuena’s 68 and made it a three-cornered fight for the top P270,000 purse with a 212 heading to the final 18 holes of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Miñoza, who showed flashes of his old brilliance with a lead-sharing 66 Thursday, lost his touch, rhythm and all, limping with a seven-over 79 and fell to sixth at 217, now seven shots behind Tabuena.
Bayron, who held on with a gutsy 70 to tie Miñoza in the lead halfway through, waxed hot and seized control of the field with two birdies in the first three holes. But the former OOM winner turned cold just as quickly, dropping four shots in the next six holes, including a double-bogey on the par-5 No. 6. He hung on to a one-stroke lead over Tabuena at the turn despite a 38 but lost his grip altogether with a double-bogey on No. 11 and wound up with a 39 and a 77 and slid to joint fourth with Salahog at 215.
Salahog, who earned a rare spot in the last flight with a 69-70 start, stayed in the hunt with a birdie on No. 3 but made a double-bogey on No. 6, flubbed par-putts from close range from No. 8 and 9 and finished with a 76.
Rene Menor carded a 73 and moved to seventh at 218 while first-day joint leader Ramil Bisera turned in a 74 to tie Zanieboy Gialon, who shot a 73, and Robert Pactolerin, who made a second straight 74, at 220.