ELMER Salvador played steady down the stretch, hitting birdie on Nos. 16 and 17 for the second straight day to card a 68 and take a two-stroke lead after Thursday’s second round of the Aboitiz Invitational at the wet Cebu Country Club.
Salvador came out of a 30-minute delay due to lightning and hit an eagle three on No. 12 only to slip with back-to-back bogeys right after.
But the defending champion managed to steady himself on the closing holes for a nine-under 135 total to hold off surging Ian Keenan of England in the Asian Development Tour event.
“It rained hard in one stretch and made it tougher for us. Medyo manlalamig ka talaga. But I just stayed focused,” said Salvador, now 36 holes away from retaining the crown he won in runaway fashion over Tony Lascuna last year.
Keenan pressed his bid with the day’s best score of five-under 67 for a 137 total, while Korea’s Park Il-hwan and Anthony Fernando stood another shot behind at 136 after a 68 and 70, respectively.
“My ball striking was very, very good and didn’t hole any putts longer than 10 or 12 feet. I just kept it close all day,” said Keenan, coming off a 22nd place finish in last week’s Jakarta Classic won by American James Bowen.
The 27-year-old Englishman birdied two of the last four holes to come up with nines of 33-34.
Fernando, the former national champion still in search of a breakthrough pro win in four years, hit two birdies and a par to close out his first round early Thursday with a 68. He added a 70 to tie Park at second.
“I have to be focused and play the course intelligently,” said Fernando, out to end a string of runner-up finishes off mediocre closing round performances, including a second place effort at the Asean PGA Tour leg in Malaysia last January.
He has been using his trusted 4-iron off the mound instead of driver to tackle the narrow fairways of CCC, leading to four birdies against two bogeys in another challenging day.
Brian Locke of the US, who topped the first round with a 66, found the going tough in morning play under sun and rain and hobbled with a 73. Locke was at 139, tied with Carl Santos-Ocampo (68), Angelo Que (69) and Australia’s Darren Tan (71).
Que said he likes his chances going into the final 36 holes although he could have been in a better position if not for missed birdie opportunities from six feet.
“I’m doing well, hitting 14-15 fairways and greens and making some good up-and-down,” said Que, seeking his second victory in the season after routing the field in the Orchard Championship.
Missing the cut at three-over 147 in the in the tournament sponsored by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. were Bowen (71-148), Ferdie Aunzo (76-148), Mhark Fernando (74-150) and Cassius Casas (74-151).