American Brian Locke came charging back at dusk with a six-under 66, dislodging erstwhile frontrunner Elmer Salvador for the clubhouse lead at the start of the weather-delayed opener of the $65,000 Aboitiz Invitational at the soggy Cebu Country Club on Wednesday.
Locke, a former Asian Development Tour leg champion, hit back-to-back birdies from No. 17 then holed out with a par at nightfall to string a pair of 66s and wrest the provisional lead in a long day where play was halted for nearly two hours due to threat of lightning and six flights got stranded on account of darkness.
Unlike those who played in the afternoon wave of the 119-strong international field, Locke came out of the long delay still in focus, coming through with gutsy pars before knocking down those closing birdies to find himself in control with those with unfinished rounds unlikely to catch up when they resume play early morning today.
Earlier, Salvador played true to form and shot a 67 in tough condition and overcast skies but settled for second with fellow morning starters Mars Pucay, Australian Darren Tan and unheralded Reymon Jaraula shooting identical 68s in the 72-hole championship sponsored by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. and backed by ICTSI.
Two time champion Jay Bayron also rallied to fire a 69 and join the sixth group that includes Swede Malcolm Kokocinski, Dutch Guido Van der Valk, Canada’s Lindsay Renolds, brother Rufino Bayron and local amateur LJ Go.
Angelo Que carded a 70 to lead the two-under par scorers, who included Anthony Fernando, Korean Il Hwan Park and Scot Ian Keenan while American James Bowen, coming off a victory in Jakarta last week, never recovered from a triple bogey mishap on No. 2 and a 41 at the front, hobbling with a five-over 77 and in danger of missing the cut.
Salvador bounced back from a bogey mishap on No. 18, his ninth hole, with three straight birdies from No. 1, anchoring a solid start that bode well for his title retention drive in the 72-hole championship he ruled in impressive fashion last year.
“It’s a good start but it’s tough to play under such condition since the preferred lies rule only applies on the fairway. If you drove to the rough, it will be hard to recover,” said Salvador, who missed the tight fairways just twice on Nos. 8 and 9 which he both parred to secure a 33-34 round.
Pucay, seeking an end to a year-long victory drought, also leaned on a three-birdie string from No. 6 to launch his bid with a 68, the same output put in by Jaraula, who missed joining Salvador at the helm with a bogey on the 18th for a pair of 34s.
“I played well although could’ve done better had I made a couple more of birdie putts,” said Pucay, who last won at ICTSI Iloilo last year.
Jaraula, a product of the Frankie Minoza Foundation who passed the recent local pro qualifier at Splendido last March but only joined the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour in its southern swing last month, made a surprise start of five birdies in the first 12 holes, including three straight from No. 10 but wavered a bit with two bogeys against one birdie in the last five holes to settle for a 68.
Meanwhile, Zanie Boy Gialon, one of local golf’s rising stars, led his team composed of Washington Lim, Arturo Go and Arnold Tan to victory with a 16-under 56, nipping fellow young turk Clyde Mondilla and partners Edwin Medalle, Alla Lua and Nelson Yuvallos in the countback in Tuesday’s rainy pro-am.
Ferdie Aunzo and teammates Masatsugu Ochiai, Tadashi Ochiai and Tatsu Ochiai combined for a 57 to finish third.