SILANG, Cavite – Mhark Fernando overcame another shaky start and outplayed Edward Reyes and Marvin Dumandan with yet another big finish to pull away by four shots after a 71 in the third round of the P2.5 million ICTSI Riviera Classic at Riviera’s Langer course on Friday.
Bogeys in the first two holes cut Fernando’s overnight three-shot lead down to one but the former national champion bounced back with three birdies against one more bogey to salvage a 36-35 round in another impressive rebound from a faltering start.
With a four-under 209 aggregate, Fernando padded his lead to four, this time over new pursuers Jessie Balasabas, Rey Pagunsan and Paul Echavez as Reyes and Dumandan tumbled down with over par scores in demanding conditions made tougher by strong winds.
“The wind really affected my game in the early going but I was able to recover again,” said Fernando, who is now 18 holes away from nailing his second career win after scoring a breakthrough at ICTSI Calatagan in 2011 and pocketing what could be his biggest paycheck of P450,000.
“I’ll just stick to my game plan – fairway and green since we expect the wind to come into play again plus the tough pin placements,” said Fernando, also out to duplicate his victory here in 2009 as an amateur.
After dropping off Reyes, who fumbled with a 74, and Dumandan, who limped with a 75 after a 66, Fernando takes on new rivals in today’s championship flight with Balasabas and Pagunsan out to end a long slump on the tour sponsored by ICTSI.
Balasabas came away with a brilliant finish of 31 for a two-under 69, seizing solo second at 213 while the long-hitting Pagunsan matched Fernando’s closing 35 for a 70 and a 214.
“It’s a big lead but I’ll still try my best,” said Balasabas, out to end a string of so-so finishes this year marred by two missed cuts. “I think everybody has a chance since the course is tough but I have to shoot under-par to gain a crack at the crown.”
Echavez followed up his second-round 69 with a 71 to tie Pagunsan at third but missed making it to the final flight and will instead be joining veteran Robert Pactolerin and last week’s ICTSI Splendido Classic winner Elmer Saban in the second-to-last group.
Pactolerin, the many-time Masters champion and former Philippine Open winner, flashed vintage form and shot a 70, highlighted by a rare three-birdie string from No. 5, as he joined Saban, who matched par 71, and Reyes at fifth at 215.
Gerald Rosales, who shot a 68 to take the first round lead in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., recovered a bit from a disastrous 76 in the second round with a 73 to tie Dumandan in eighth at 216 while Benjie Magada carded a 72 for a 217.