SILANG, Cavite – Elmer Salvador outgunned Frankie Miñoza with an early burst of birdies then held off Clyde Mondilla’s backside rally with a big bounce-back two-shot swing on the 18th to shoot a five-under 66 and threaten to duplicate his runaway win in the ICTSI Riviera Classic last year.
Tied with Miñoza midway through the P1.5 million championship, Salvador pulled away with three straight birdies from No. 2 as Miñoza tumbled with bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3, failed to mount a comeback at the back and wound up with a 74, enabling the defending champion to take full control at 205.
The young Mondilla, the third player in the final group, fell five strokes adrift at the turn but showed up his veteran rivals with four birdies in a six-hole stretch from No. 11, including a two-shot swing on No. 16 that pulled him within one off Salvador before play was momentarily halted due to threat of lightning.
Salvador fought back from a bogey on No. 16 with a par and a clutch birdie at resumption, putting him back on top by three as Mondilla sputtered and holed out with a bogey for a 68 for a 208.
“I’ve been hitting it well, off the tee and to the green and putting has been steady,” said Salvador, who romped to a five-stroke victory over Thai Pavit Tangkamolprasert and Peter Richardson of England in last year’s staging of this event, then a leg on the Asian Development Tour.
But Salvador never tasted victory again the rest of the season although he had posted four top 10 finishes after six legs of this year’s circuit sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“I just hope to pull it off. It’s been a while since I last won,” said Salvador, who rebounded from a so-so 72 start with a 67 Thursday and moved 18 holes away from banking the top P270,000 purse.
Miñoza’s three-over card dropped him to sixth at 213 in a tie with Mars Pucay, who made a 72, while Rufino Bayron rallied with a 69 to wrest solo fourth at 211 and Miguel Tabuena, quiet in the first two rounds, rebounded with a 68 but still stood seven shots behind at 212.
Tony Lascuña, who shared the first round lead at 69 but hobbled with a second day 74, missed closing out in style with a missed-green bogey on the 18th. But the reigning three-time Order of Merit winner on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour did join Salvador and Mondilla in the championship flight on Saturday with a 67 and a 210.
“It’s a big deficit – five strokes and Elmer is playing solid. But I’ll try my best. Anything can happen here anyway at Langer,” said Lascuna, still looking for his first win this season after racking up five victories last year.
Focus will also be on Mondilla, the young Del Monte ace seeking a follow-up to his breakthrough four-shot victory at ICTSI Canlubang Invitational last year.
Korean Seok, Jun Min shot a 72 for ninth at 215 while Jay Bayron and Paul Echavez also carded 72s and first day co-leader Benjie Magada limped with a 75 for 217s.