TAGAYTAY – Rufino Bayron turned a daunting deficit into a whopping seven-stroke lead as he fired a course record-tying seven-under 65 and watched two-day leader Elmer Salvador stumble with a horrible 77 in the third round of the ICTSI Splendido Classic on Friday.
Five down midway through the P1.5 million event, Bayron flashed superb form off the tee and with his short irons as he missed setting a new course record at Splendido Taal Golf Club with a three-putt miscue on the par-3 17th.
Still, his 32-33 round proved more than enough to pull him from second and into the lead at 13-under 203, now seven shots ahead of Salvador, who wavered midway through the rain-drenched frontside on the way to a 210 total.
Tony Lascuña matched Salvador's six-under total after a gutsy two-under 70 although the reigning back-to-back ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion said he wound need more than a solid final round to foil Bayron’s bid for a breakthrough win in six years.
“I need just one good start, one good round to pull it off,” said Bayron, who actually won a pro tournament as an amateur in the soft opening of the ICTSI tour in late 2008 but never seriously contended for the crown as a pro until Friday.
Birdies in the first three holes got Bayron going and he rammed in a four-footer on No. 6 for a 32 at the turn. He sustained his birdie binge on No. 11 before making three birdies in a row from No. 13 to move on course to breaking the course record set by Salvador in the first round.
But after a routine par on the 16th, Bayron failed to return a four-footer for par on the 17th and missed a birdie putt on the last hole to settle for that 65.
“It looks like a big lead but if he (Bayron) breaks down, we might have a chance,” said Lascuna, who nearly withdrew in the second round due to knee injury. “I’m good for another 18 holes but I need to gain my rhythm in putting to contend.”
Salvador, who appeared headed for a rout in the kickoff leg of the 16-stage circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. after a 65 and a 68, hung tough with a birdie on the third but dropped strokes on Nos. 5 and 6, rammed in a birdie on the ninth but bogeyed two of the first three holes at the back to yield the lead.
He fell behind by four heading to the par-5 18th but drove out-of-bounds and ended up with a triple-bogey 8.
“I played really bad today. I made three putts, had a fried-egg lie on No. 12 and went OB (out-of-bounds) on the 18th,” rued Salvador in Pilipino. He, however, vowed to strike back in Saturday’s final round among the Davaoeno bets chasing the P270,000 otp purse.
“Pipilitin ko pa rin bumawi bukas,” said Salvador.
The rest of the surviving field remained too far behind with Rey Pagunsan shooting a 68 for a 211 and Rufino Bayron’s elder brother Jay firing a 68 to tie Frankie Minoza, carding a 71, at 212.
Benjie Magada also shot a 68 for solo seventh at 213 while Fil-Am Carl Santos-Ocampo turned in a 68 to join veteran Robert Pactolerin (70), Charles Hong (74), Clyde Mondilla (75) and Swede Malcolm Kokocinski (72) at eighth at 215, 12 strokes off the pace.
Miguel Tabuena finally hit his stride and fired a 69 but the 19-year-old shotmaker stood way behind at even 216 with American Eric Mina (72), Jun Rates (70), Ferdie Aunzo (75) and Jessie Balasabas (70).
The event is 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.