TARLAC – Elmer Salvador broke out of a long scoring spell with a solid seven-under 65 to take a three-stroke lead over Jhonnel Ababa and two others at the start of the $100,000 CAT (Central Azucarera de Tarlac) Open at the Luisita Golf and Country Club on Tuesday.
Expecting nothing spectacular after struggling for form in the first five tournaments of the Philippine Golf Tour Asia and in the last seven legs of the PGT, Salvador completed a bogey-free 33-32 card that overshadowed Ababa’s equally impressive 68 along with those of Jobim Carlos and Tim Stewart of Australia.
“I didn’t expect to score this low but got by irons and putting going. I just hope to sustain this form to the finish,” said Salvador in Pilipino. He missed matching Clyde Mondilla’s record-setting 64 last week with a muffed birdie putt from 10 feet on No. 11.
Ababa and Carlos took charge in the early going with identical 68s with the former also completing a flawless four-birdie card and the latter birdying four of the last seven holes to seize the clubhouse lead until Salvador came in late with his imposing round.
Stewart, who tied for second with Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia in last week’s ICTSI Luisita Invitational won by Mondilla, rebounded from a bogey on No. 4 with five birdies at the back to get into the mix in the sixth leg of the second season of the region’s newest circuit put up by ICTSI.
After snapping a long title drought with an 18-under feat last week, Mondilla settled for a three-birdie, three-bogey stint, his 72 dropping him to joint 37th, seven strokes off Salvador.