BUKIDNON – Frankie Miñoza put on a show on a course he calls home with a nine-under 63 to overhaul a five-stroke deficit and post a five-stroke victory in the P1 million ICTSI Del Monte Championship on Friday.
Minoza, 53, recalled the form that made him the face of Philippine golf for a long time, hitting all fairways and missing all but one green. All his birdie chances were no farther than three feet in a display of shotmaking left his both rivals and the gallery in awe.
He rammed in nine birdies, wiping out Elmer Salvador’s five-stroke lead on No. 10 on a stirring five-birdie binge and completing his romp in the 54-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI with a birdie-birdie windup for a 31-32 card.
He actually fell one birdie short of his target but his 63 proved more than enough to rout the field which had previously braced for a two- or three-man duel among Elmer Salvador, Tony Lascuna and Johvanie Abano.
“I thought the night before that I would need a 10-under to rebound from five strokes down and get a shot at the crown,” said Minoza in Filipino. “And it came just like that – I hit the ball pretty solid and had birdie chances from just about one to three feet.”
After two 70s and a 63, Minoza wound up with a 13-under 203, winning the P200,000 top prize pulling away as Salvador hobbled with a 73, Lascuna settled for a 72, Abano carded a 71, Miguel Tabuena fired a 69 and James Ryan Lam charged back with a 68.
All five ended up with 208s and each took P62,000.
Minoza’s 63 fell just one shot off the course record which Del Monte old-timers say the 53-year-old two-time Philippine Open champion and former Asian Tour No. 1 himself owned. Minoza also shot a 59 in a practice round on his home course in his early 20s.
It was also Minoza’s second win this year following his playoff victory over brothers Jay and Rufino Bayron in The Country Club Invitational last February, further boosting his confidence as he gears up for the Seniors British Open later this month.
Salvador, who hit 11 birdies against three bogeys in the first 36 holes to seize a one-stroke lead over Lascuna, had just two birdies in the final round while fumbling with three bogeys while Lascuna had a decent 34 at the front but faltered with two bogeys in the last thee holes to drop to joint second.
Abano, who topped the pro qualifier two years ago, held his ground against Salvador and Lascuna in the final flight, but missed a couple of birdie putts at the back, while Tabuena, who bounced back with a 66 Thursday, settled for pars in the face of Minoza’s birdie spree and only got going in the closing holes with three straight birdies from No. 14.
Dutch Guido Van der Valk rallied with a 66 to salvage solo seventh at 209, Orlan Sumcad shot a 67 for eighth at 210 and last week’s Palos Verdes winner Michael Bibat made a 70 for joint ninth with Carl Santos-Ocampo (69), Charles Hong (70) and Jay Bayron (71).
It was vintage Minoza right after he rolled in a birdie from close range on the first hole although his fiery charge came four holes later when he strung up five straight birdies to overhaul the lead of Salvador, who birdied No. 2 but never recovered from back-to-back bogeys from No. 4.
Minoza, four off Lascuna at the start of the final round, tied the runaway ICTSI Calatagan leg winner with the birdie on No. 10 and seized the lead for good with another birdie on the par-5 14th.
With Salvador, Lascuna and Abaño failing to mount any charge at the back, Minoza cruised to victory he capped with a blistering birdie-birdie finish.