ELMER Salvador and Tony Lascuña came up with five-under 67s to take the top two spots after two rounds of the P1 million ICTSI Del Monte Championship on Thursday at Del Monte Golf Club in Bukdinon.
As opening day leader Richard Sinfuego fumbled and tumbled down the leaderboard with a 74, Salvador grabbed the lead at 135 and Lascuña put himself in the No. 2 spot at 136.
That set up a final-round showdown between Davaoeño aces who finished joint runners-up at Rancho Palos Verdes Classic last week.
Unheralded Johvanie Abaño will join Salvador and Lascuna in the championship flight after the local bet made a strong finish for a 68 and a seven-under 137 total, just two off the pace.
Miguel Tabuena came charging back in one of the late afternoon flights and closed out with four straight birdies for the day’s best 66, taking solo fourth at 139.
Frankie Miñoza rallied on his homeward nine, hitting three birdies against a bogey to post a second straight 70 for a 140 in a tie with James Ryan Lam, who carded a 71. But the duo stood five strokes behind Salvador heading to the final 18 holes of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
After a near-flawless 67 Wednesday, Sinfuego went on a roller-coaster ride with four bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 5, dropping to joint sixth with five others at 141.
Others at 141 were local bets Clyde Mondilla and Peter Miñoza, who had 69 and 71, respectively, Charles Hong, who matched par 72, and Korean Micah Shin, who turned in a 71.
Albin Engino got to six-under after 15 holes but bogeyed his last three holes, finishing with a 69 for a 141 total in the tournament sponsored by ICTSI.
Michael Bibat, the Rancho Palos Verde winner who started the day just one shot behind Sinfuego, birdied two of the last four holes at the front to salvage a 73 and join Sinfuego and company in seventh spot.
Salvador went on a birdie-spree at the front, hitting three straight from No. 4. Although he stumbled with a bogey on the 10th, he eagled the par-5 14th from 12 feet then birdied the 18th for the second straight day for nines of 33-34.
“I putted well and I hope to sustain it,” said Salvador in Filipino.
Lascuña made par in the first four holes before catching fire with four birdies in a row, barely missing a fifth one on the par-5 18th.
The Calatagan leg winner reeled back with a missed green bogey on No. 3 but came up with birdies on the last two par-5s on Nos. 6 and 9 for nines of 35-32.
“I had a chance on No. 18 for another birdie but I blew it again,” rued Lascuna, who had squandered another chance to gain at least a share of the lead with a flubbed birdie putt from close range.
Lascuna went straight to the practice green after the round, noting that whoever putts better will likely lift the trophy at the end of the sixth leg of the circuit backed by Nike Golf, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, Mizuno, Titleist, Srixon, Foot Joy, Callaway, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers, Cleveland Golf and Sharp.
“We had clashed for the title a number of times before and the one who putts better always ends up the winner,” said Lascuna.