Rufino Bayron turned what appeared to be a big deficit into a whopping seven-stroke lead as he fired a swashbuckling, record-tying seven-under 65 and watched two-day leader Elmer Salvador stumble with a horrible 77 to take control in the third round of the ICTSI Splendido Classic in Tagaytay on Friday.
Five down midway through the $1.5 million event, Bayron flashed superb form off the tee then came through with an impeccable iron game that set up a slew of birdies from close range, barely missing setting a new course record at Splendido Taal Golf Club with a three-putt miscue on the par-3 17th.
Still, his 32-33 round proved more than enough to pull him from second and into the lead at 13-under 203, now seven shots ahead of Salvador, who wavered midway of the rain-drenched frontside and shot himself in the foot with an uncharacteristic five-over 77 for a 210.
Tony Lascuña matched the six-under total with a gutsy two-under 70 although the reigning back-to-back ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion said he wound need more than a solid final round to foil Bayron’s bid for a breakthrough win in six years.
“I need just one good start, one good round to pull it off,” said Bayron in Filipino, who actually won a pro tournament as an amateur in the soft-opening of the ICTSI PGT in late 2008 but never seriously contended for the crown as a pro until yesterday.
Birdies in the first three holes got Bayron going and rammed in a four-footer on No. 6 for a 32 at the turn. He sustained his birdie-binge at the back despite the presence of the wind, taking a stroke on No. 11 for the third straight day and stringing three-straight from No. 13 for a running record eight-under card.
But after a routine par on the 16th, Bayron failed to return a four-footer for par on the 17th and missed a birdie putt on the last hole to settle for that 65.
“It looks like a big lead but if he [Bayron] breaks down, we might have a chance,” said Lascuna in Filipino, who nearly withdrew in the second round due to knee injury. “I’m good for another 18 holes but I need to gain my rhythm in putting to contend.”
Lascuna muffed a couple of birdie putts inside five feet that marred his 35-35 round but it was his back-to-back bogeys from No. 8 that slowed down his charge after hitting three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 3. He birdied the 18th to tie Salvador.
The erstwhile leader, who appeared headed for a rout in the kickoff leg of the 16-stage circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. after a 65 and a 68, hung tough with a birdie on the third but dropped strokes on Nos. 5 and 6, rammed in a birdie on the ninth but bogeyed two of the first three holes at the back to yield the lead.
He fell behind by four heading to the par-5 18th but drove out-of-bounds and ended up with a triple-bogey 8 for that 77.
“I played really bad today [yesterday]. I made three putts, had a fried-egg lie on No. 12 and went OB [out-of-bounds] on the 18th,” rued Salvador in Filipino. He, however, vowed to strike back in today’s final round among the Davaoeño bets chasing the top P270,000 purse.
The rest of the surviving field remained too far behind with Rey Pagunsan shooting a 68 for a 211 and Rufino Bayron’s elder brother Jay firing a 68 to tie Frankie Miñoza, carding a 71, at 212.
Benjie Magada also shot a 68 for solo seventh at 213 while Fil-Am Carl Santos-Ocampo turned in a 68 to join veteran Robert Pactolerin (70), Charles Hong (74), Clyde Mondilla (75) and Swede Malcolm Kokocinski (72) at eighth at 215, 12 strokes off the pace.
Miguel Tabuena finally hit his stride and fired a 69 but the 19-year-old shotmaker stood way behind at even 216 with American Eric Mina (72), Jun Rates (70), Ferdie Aunzo (75) and Jessie Balasabas (70).