JAY Bayron came charging back from nine strokes down, scoring a 69 to lift the crown as younger brother and overnnight leader Rufino collapsed under pressure in the ICTSI Splendido Classic on Saturday at Splendido Taal Golf Club in Tagaytay.
Rufino started the day seven strokes clear but struggled in the final round and fired a 79, while Jay put on a strong finishing kick highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 No. 11 and capped by a five-foot birdie putt on the 18th in the opening leg of the new Philippine Golf Tour season.
With a seven-under 281 total, Jay finished a one-stroke better than Rufino and bagged P270,000.
The younger Bayron still had a chance to force a playoff but missed a birdie attempt from 10 feet on the final hole.
“I really didn’t expect to win. I just played my game and tried to hold on against the strong wind at the back nine,” said Jay.
“I only a realized that I had taken the lead after I bogeyed No. 16.”
Rufino looked set to finally score a breakthrough win after tying the course record of 65 in the third round for a seven-stroke lead. But he slipped early, making three straight bogeys from No. 2 and closing out the frontside with back-to-back double bogeys.
Still, his 43 at the turn kept him on top of the heap until Jay made his charge with an eagle after a brilliant 4-iron shot from 206 that landed eight feet off the hole, and three birdies from close range that negated his bogey on the 16th from an errant drive.
Clyde Mondilla, 12 strokes off Rufino at the start of the day, also had a chance to tie Jay but muffed his own birdie attempt from 12 feet and settled for joint runner-up with Rufino at 282. Each took home P145,000.
Last year’s top money earner Tony Lascuna had a 73 for solo fourth at 283 worth P85,000.
“I knew I had a chance but I just could make the putts at the back,” rued Lascuna, who missed at least two birdie putts inside six feet in the last nine holes.
Elmer Salvador, the leader in the first two rounds and the third player in the featured flight, birdied the opening hole but made three straight bogeys from No. 3 and never got back into contention. He wound up with a 75, finishing tied for fifth at 285 with Frankie Minoza, who made a 73. Each received P64,250.
Rey Pagunsan fumbled with a 75 for solo seventh at 286 worth P51,500, while Miguel Tabuena carded a 71 and ended up tied for eighth at 287 with veteran Robert Pactolerin, who matched par 72. They shared the combined P80,500 prize.
Malcolm Kokocinski of Sweden had a closing 71 and emerged as the top foreign player in the sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., finishing tied for 10th at 288 with Paul Echavez, who rallied with a 71. Each won P32,000 in the tournament 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.
“Dumiskarte lang ako para malabanan ko ung lakas ng hangin. Mabuti at nakabawi ako sa back nine,” said Jay.
The tour goes to Baguio for the ICTSI Camp John Hay Championship next week.