Elmer Salvador charged back from a backside struggle with a birdie binge at the front but stumbled with a late bogey for a 72, enabling Jhonnel Ababa to gain a share of the lead halfway through the rich ICTSI Eagle Ridge Invitational at the Aoki course in Gen. Trias, Cavite on Thursday.
Salvador, hounded by poor putting at the back where he teed off, actually fell off the leaderboard with a two-over card after 11 holes but gunned down three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 3 to regain control, only to reel back with a missed green bogey on the eighth for a 35-37 card.
Ababa also wavered at the finish with a bogey on No. 18 after a tap-in birdie on the 17th in an earlier flight, finishing with a 71 and joining fellow Davaoeño Salvador at 139, two strokes ahead of a charging Justin Quiban, who rebounded from a mediocre opening 72 with a three-under 69 for a 141 heading to the last 36 holes of the $100,000 championship sponsored by ICTSI and serving as the sixth leg of the Philippine Golf Tour Asia.
A slew of others stood a stroke or two behind, including the best of the young and the old, guaranteeing a spirited battle for the top $17,500 purse and ranking points in the region’s newest circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Charles Hong matched Salvador’s tournament-best 67 he spiked with three closing birdies at the back and three more at Nos. 3 , 6 and 9 as he forced a four-way tie at 142 with Indonesian Jordan Irawan, Keanu Jahns and Joenard Rates, who carded 68, 70 and 72, respectively.
“Unlike in the first round, my putting was off today (yesterday) with three putt miscues,” rued Salvador, seeking an end to a year-long title spell.
Tommy Mansuwan, who shot an impressive 70 Wednesday, struggled with a 38 at the back and needed to birdie two of the last five holes to save a 73. The Thai bet slid to eighth at 143 and fell four strokes off the pace.
Meanwhile, Tony Lascuña made his move after a disastrous 74, birdying Nos. 5 and 6 coming home to preserve a 70 and earn a share of ninth place at 144 with Korean Lee Jae Won (70), Dutch Guido Van der Valk (74) and Arnold Villacencio, who rallied with a 69.
“I’m happy to get my groove back. But it’s still a long way to go, I just hope my putting clicks in the last two rounds,” said Lascuña, who like Quiban, is out to become the first double leg winner on the PGT Asia after dominating the elite field at Wack Wack last November.
Frankie Miñoza also fought back with a 69 for joint 13th at 145 with Ira Alido (71), Jun Bernis (70), Albin Engino (72), Americans Paul Harris (70) and Josh Salah (74) and Benjie Magada (74) while Thai Pasavee Lertvilai fired a 71 to lead the 146 scorers, who included Jelbert Gamolo (72), Gerald Rosales (74) and American John Michael O’Toole (72).
Like Salvador, the young Quiban tamed the frontside with birdies on Nos. 3, 5 and 6 for a 34-35 card that put the 21-year-old shotmaker back in the hunt for a second straight PGTA crown after dominating the CAT Open at Luisita last December.
James Lam fought back with a 70 from an opening 82 and tied Francis Morilla (73), Jay Bayron (74) and Rufino Bayron (76) at 152 to make the 50-plus cut of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. which stakes $17,500 to the winner.
Among those who failed to advance in the event, event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc., were PGT Asia Splendido leg winner Rene Menor (75-154), Lexus Keoninh of the US (73-155), Ferdie Aunzo (76-156) and Orlan Sumcad (76-156).