TAGAYTAY – Elmer Saban snapped a seven-year search for a crown by ruling the P1 million ICTSI Splendido Classic in the rain on Friday, edging veteran Cassius Casas by one with a closing two-under 70 at the Splendido Golf and Country Club.
The reed-thin Saban broke away from a tie with Casas with a strong start then steeled himself up at the back to withstand his fellow Davaoeno’s late charge, rolling in a pressure-packed four-foot par putt on the 18th to frustrate Casas and finally nail his breakthrough victory with an eight-under 208 total worth P200,000.
“I was so nervous when I made that putt from just around four feet since a miss would’ve given Cassius a chance in a playoff,” said the 36-year old Saban in Filipino.
Saban also leaned on his short game when condition became tougher at the back due to rain, saving his lead with three scrambling pars en route to ending years of fruitless campaign since he turned pro in 2007.
“The key actually was my short game as it became a pitch-and-putt contest when the rain fell,” said Saban.
Casas fell behind by as many as four shots in the early going but struck back with two birdies at the back, the last on No. 17 that moved him within one. But he overshot the par-5 18th while trying to reach it in two with a 3-wood from 220 yards and his chip shot went 24 feet past the hole.
He missed the birdie putt coming back for a 71, settled for second at 209 and took home P120,000 - his best finish on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour since snatching a victory at ICTSI Del Monte in 2010 when Juvic Pagunsan, Elmer Salvador and Richard Sinfuego were disqualified on a final hole infraction.
“I knew I had to birdie the last two holes to tie. While I did birdie the par-3 17th, I ironically missed the 18th, which I birdied in the first two days,” rued Casas.
Dante Becierra made a good run at the back with four birdies after six holes but fumbled with bogeys on Nos. 16 and 18 that sandwiched another birdie on the 17th. He ended with a 70 for his best finish at third with a 210 worth P65,000 in the event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Gerald Rosales also rallied with a 69 to tie Korean Hanmil Jung, who carded a 72, at fourth with 211 for P45,000 each while Benjie Magada shot the day’s best of 68 to finish tied for sixth with Rey Pagunsan and Rey Pagunsan, who both had 73s, at 212. Each received P30,000.
Micah Shin wound up ninth with a 213 after a 70 while Marvin Dumandan fired a 69 and finished tied for 10th with Miguel Tabuena (72), Tomo Yoshinaga (72), Dutch Guido Van der Valk (73) and American Samuel Cyr (75) at 214.
Other backers of the event were Nike Golf, Srixon, Custom Clubmakers, Pacsports, Cleveland Golf, Callaway, Ping, Mizuno, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, FootJoy, Titleist, Sharp, BMW and Gergia Energy Foods.