Jay Bayron pounced on a crucial two-shot swing on No. 15 to seize control then held on with clutch putts to edge Malaysian Gavin Green and win the hotly disputed $100,000 Aboitiz Invitational crown by two on a closing two-under 70 at Wack Wack’s East on Saturday.
Bayron, one down behind third round leader Nicolas Paez of the US and three-up on Green at the start of the round, hit a solid drive and superb approach shot on No. 15 then made a delicate birdie putt from six feet before watching Green, who rallied to tie Bayron with four holes left, muff a four-footer for par to surge ahead.
Not even Green’s pressure-packed birdie feat on the par-3 16th could shake off the veteran Bayron, who parred the last three holes, including a par-save on No. 18, to clinch the victory on a six-under 282 aggregate and keep the Aboitiz crown on home soil for the sixth straight year.
Bayron actually ruled the inaugural staging of the event put up by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. in Cebu in 2011 but failed to contend in the next four, finishing joint sixth in 2012, winding up tied for 29th in 2013, limping home to a joint 45th finish in 2014 and ending up tied for ninth in last year’s staging of the championship co-organized by Asian Development Tour and Pilipinas Golf Tournamets, Inc.
Though the two-shot swing on No. 15 fueled his title bid, the ace Davaoeño shotmaker said it was his chip-in birdie from 30 yards on the ninth that keyed his victory.
“That was the turning point. In the first few holes, I was looking for something to inspire me and that chip-in birdie was the answer,” said Bayron, who bucked an opening hole bogey with birdies on Nos. 4 and 9 and made up for his other bogey mishap on No. 11 by birdieing Nos. 13 and 15 to pocket the top $17,500 purse (P822,500).
Down by one heading to the 72nd hole, Green, who pulled off a two-shot win over Singapore’s Koh Deng Shan at Manila Southwoods ADT last April, went for broke and ended up shattered – holing out with bogey for a 69 and a 284 worth $11,500.
“I had to hit a birdie. Too bad it did not happen,” rued Green, who drive on No. 18 landed on the fairway bunker on the left then hit the trees on the right side of the green.
Thai Rattanon Wannasrichan came from behind to snatch solo third at 285 after a 69 and $7,000 as the erstwhile leader and pursuers dropped out of the title chase one after the other with shaky finishes in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion.
Tony Lascuña, who pulled within one with a 34 after nine holes, fumbled with three bogeys against two birdies at the back and wound up with a 71 for 286, settling for joint fourth with Indonesian George Gandranata, who also pressed his bid with a three-under card after 10 holes, only to reel back with two bogeys against one bogey in the last eight. He finished with a 70. Each received $5,000.
Paez, who held on to the lead despite a 74 in the third round, succumbed to pressure early, stumbling with a 37 before blowing it all with four bogeys in the last seven holes for a 77. He fell to joint sixth at 288 with Thai Poom Saksansin, who matched par 72, and Swede Malcolm Kokocinski, who also moved in contention with a two-under card after 11 holes but bogeyed three of the last seven, including the last two holes for a 73. Each got $3,133.
Thai Suradit Yongcharoenchai and American Micah Shin tied for ninth at 289 after a pair of 73s worth $2,175 each while American Blake Snyder, just one behind Paez halfway through the event sponsored by ICTSI, and Swede Oscar Zetterwall, winner of the Eagle Ridge ADT last April, shared 11th place at 291 worth $1,825 apiece.
Bracing for a shootout with Bayron, Paez found the road to Aboitiz glory a lot bumpier, tougher as Green and Lascuña joined the hunt and at least six more stood just three or four behind in the early going.
Green forced a three-way tie for the lead at four-under after seven holes with a three-under card, spiked by opening hole eagle-2 as Bayron had a one-bogey, one-birdie stint and Paez fumbled with a two-bogey, one birdie start.
Lascuña, winner of four tournaments in this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, including three straight at Eagle Ridge, Forest Hills and Bacolod, moved to within one with birdies on Nos. 4 and 6.
Kokocinski stood at two-under overall while Yongcharoenchai, Rattanon Wannasrichan and Shin stayed within sight with one-under overall cards.
But as their rivals sputtered one after the other at the back, Bayron and Green took the spotlight and slugged it out shot-for-shot and putt-for-putt.
Green actually cashed in on a two-shot swing on No. 11 which he birdied and Bayron bogeyed, shoving the Malaysian to the lead, only to drop a stroke on the next for the third straight day, enabling the Filipino ace to draw level at five-under overall.
Both birdied No. 13 and after trading pars on the next, Bayron regained the lead with a birdie as Green cracked an missed an uphill par-saving putt from around four feet.