Fernando snaps slump, tops ICTSI Riviera

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Mhark Fernando came through with clutch putts in the closing holes then watched Jessie Balasabas crack under pressure to cruise to a three-shot win with a second straight 71 in the P2.5 million ICTSI Riviera Classic at Langer Course on Saturday in Silang, Cavite.

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Fernando, who all but wrapped it up with a whopping four-stroke lead in the third round, raced away to as many as five shots at the turn then parred the backside to frustrate Balasabas and snap a two-year slump for the former national champion, who took charge in the second round and never looked back to record his second career win after dominating the ICTSI Calatagan Challenge in 2011.

“I told myself that I just have to stay steady since I am in the lead. I did not want to lose because of silly mistakes,” said the 32-year-old Fernando, who pooled a 72-hole total of four-under 280 aggregate and pocketed his biggest earning to date worth P450,000.

Balasabas actually moved within two with back-to-back birdies from No. 15 in overcast skies to put some semblance of fight. But he three-putted the par-3 17th from 15 feet, enabling Fernando to sit on another three-shot cushion.

He settled for a 70 for second at 283 and also took his biggest paycheck to date worth P320,000.

“I miscalculated the putt. Had it gone in, the game would have changed and probably would have had propelled me into a potential playoff with Mhark,” rued Balasabas.

Gerald Rosales, the former Philippine Open champion here in 2000 who led the first round of this 13th leg of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, rallied with a two-under 69 and salvaged at 285 worth $210,000.

Veteran Robert Pactolerin also dished out his best finish in years, matching par 71 and finishing fifth at 286. He took home P150,000.

Benjie Magada shot a 70 and wound up fifth worth P110,000.

Like in the first three days, Fernando opened with a bogey. But as it was in the first 54 holes, he flashed some kind of resiliency, hitting birdies on Nos. 4 and 7 to negate his other bogey on No. 6 and make the turn at even 35 to go up by five as Balasabas carded a 36.

It was cruise control from there although Balasabas made some charge with four birdies against a bogey after seven holes at the back, only to wilt under pressure with that costly three-putt miscue on the 17th.

Marvin Dumandan (72) and Edward Reyes (73) ended up joint sixth with 288s while Richard Sinfuego (70), Elmer Saban (74) and Paul Echavez (75) tied for eighth on 289s in the event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.

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