ELMER Salvador birdied two of the last three holes for a five-under 67 and a one-stroke lead in the first round of the P1 million ICTSI Tagaytay Midlands Challenge on Wednesday.
Salvador used his power off the tee to set up the birdies on two par-5s, negating his bogeys on Nos. 11 and 15.
The 43-year-old shotmaker was one stroke clear of Anthony Fernando, Elmer Saban and Rolando Marabe after 18 holes of the 54-hole tournament.
“Medyo maganda ang patama at nag-click ang putting,” said the soft-spoken Salvador, who beat Angelo Que in a final round shootout to retain the Aboitiz Invitational crown in Cebu last month.
Fernando put himself in early contention with a 68.
“I just went for the fairway and tried to set up birdie chances,” said Fernando, a product of the Ateneo Golf Foundation, who hit five birdies against one bogey. “I just hope to put it all together until the final day.”
Saban and Marabe, in the lower half of the Order of Merit with poor finishes in the first nine legs of the circuit sponsored by ICTSI, made identical nines of 34-34.
Randy Garalde, Nilo Salahog and Edward Reyes scored 69, while Jay Bayron carded a 70 that was matched by Carl Santos-Ocampo, Gerald Rosales, Mhark Fernando, Charles Hong, Christopher delos Santos and Korean Byron Cho.
“My driving is quite okay but I missed a lot of putts because the greens are hard to read,” said Que, who was tied with Order of Merit leader Miguel Tabuena and Tony Lascuna, among others, at one-under par in the tournament backed by Nike Golf, Srixon, Custom Clubmakers, Pacsports, Cleveland Golf, Callaway, Ping, Mizuno, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, FootJoy, Titleist, Sharp and BMW.