TAGAYTAY – Elmer Salvador put on a brilliant show of shotmaking and putting on the away to a record seven-under 65 and a three-stroke lead over Frankie Miñoza and Tony Lascuña at the start of the P1.5 million ICTSI Splendido Classic at Splendido Taal Golf Club on Wednesday.
Salvador, coming off a struggling stint in last week’s Solaire Open at The Country Club where he wound up joint 21st, rediscovered his top form with eight birdies in his first 17 holes in morning play highlighted by a four-birdie string from No. 13.
But the back-to-back Aboitiz Invitational champion and former Order of Merit winner stumbled with a bogey on the par-5 18th, ending up with a 33-32 card in the kickoff leg of this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“Sinwerte lang. Maganda ang umpisa at nagtuloy sa backnine,” said Salvador.
However, he drove into a fairway bunker on the closing hole and needed three more shots to reach the green before two-putting for the lone black mark in an otherwise impressive card that bettered the previous best of 66 set by Miguel Tabuena in 2012.
Miñoza, out to duplicate his three-win romp last year, matched Salvador’s 32 with four birdies in the first five holes at the back where he started and rammed in another birdie on No. 4, only to give the shot back with a missed green bogey on the eighth. He signed for a 68 for second.
Lascuña, also out to atone for a forgettable stint at Solaire Open where he ended up at 31st, set his title bid in motion with a pair of 34s marked by two birdies in the last four holes in the 72-hole championship sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Clyde Mondilla, riding the momentum of his seventh-place finish at the Solaire Open, made a 35 at the back then eagled the par-5 No. 2 and birdied No. 6 but bogeyed the last three holes to drop to 71 in one of the late flights.
But only nine other players out of the starting field of 98 managed to turn in under-par scores as the dreaded Tagaytay wind kicked in late in the day with Michael Bibat and Erwin Vinluan sharing fourth with 69s, Rufino Bayron and Charles Hong firing a 70 each, and Paul Echavez, Marvin Dumandan, Rene Menor, pro-am winner Carl Santos-Ocampo and qualifiers American Tony Guerrero and Swede Malcolm Kokocinski carding identical 71s.
Tabuena, who finished tied with Mondilla at the Solaire Open, failed to get going in a late start and settled for a two-birdie, two-bogey stint for a 72 in a tie with Robert Pactolerin and Ferdie Aunzo in the event backed by Nike Golf, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp and FootJoy with Balls TV and ABS-CBN Sports+Action as media partners.
The rest groped for form with Jun Rates and Jan Tambogon carding 73s, Rolando Marabe, Zanie Boy Gialon, Japanese Tomo Yoshinaga, Dante Becierra and Korean qualifier Kim Chang Hoi turning in 74s.
Elmer Saban, who nipped Cassius Casas by one to nail his first pro win here last year, blew a fine start of 35 at the back with a horrible frontside finish of 40, dropping to 18th place at 75 with veteran Asian Tour campaigner Mars Pucay, former Philippine Open champion Gerald Rosales, Jun Bernis, Danny Zarate, Richard Sinfuego, Rey Pagunsan and qualifiers Eric Mina of the US and Park Jun Song of Korea.