Rene Menor literally broke through the hard way, wearing down Thai Pasavee Lertvilai in a record six-hole playoff and snaring the ICTSI Splendido Classic crown of the PGT Asia Tour at Taal Splendido in Tagaytay.
Menor, who matched Lertvilai’s closing six-under 66 to force a three-way playoff with American John Michael O’Toole at 12-under 276, hit his drive on the par-5 No. 10 into the hazard but found a big lift as the Thai drove out-of-bounds.
He took a penalty shot but had a closer approach for his third shot while Lertvilai had to tee off again from the mound, enabling the unheralded local shotmaker to finish off the PGTA Q-School topnotcher with a scrambling par and annex his first-ever championship.
“I couldn’t believe I won,” said an overwhelmed Menor, who banked $17,500 for his tough feat that nearly tripled his combined earnings in a long winless spell on the local circuit “Actually, I didn’t even expect I would be able to come back and survive a long playoff duel.”
But he did as Lertvilai blinked and wound up with a bogey and settled for runner-up purse of $11,500 in the second leg of the PGT Asia Tour sponsored by ICTSI.
O’Toole, who battled from eight down by shooting a course-trying record 64 in bogey-free fashion, bowed out right in the first playoff hole on No. 18, stumbling with his first bogey in the day. He took home $7,000.
Four more trips back to the closing par-4 hole failed to produce a winner and the Menor-Lervilai duel had to be brought to No. 10 for the sixth playoff hole.
Menor, who has had a series of solid starts in a number of tournaments, only to crumble under pressure and fade, this time fought back from six down off third round leader Rufino Bayron in regulation and held his own with the fire and grit of a veteran campaigner in the grueling playoff that bettered Frankie Miñoza’s victory over Miguel Tabuena in last year’s PGT Negros Occidental Classic that took five extra holes to finish.
It was indeed a bizarre ending to a tournament that had appeared headed to a runaway triumph after Bayron stormed four shots clear off Clyde Mondilla and Mars Pucay after the pivotal third round of the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
But the championship flight, and the second-to-last group of Tony Lascuña, Jhonnel Ababa and Aussie DJ Loypur all bombed out at the challenging backside of the up-and-down layout, paving the way for the unlikely surge of Lertvilai, O’Toole and Menor.
Bayron actually held on to the lead with a 36 at the turn but lost his touch, rhythm and all at the back, collapsing with a 44 marred by a double-bogey, a triple-bogey and four bogeys with only a birdie to show for an atrocious 80. He wound up at joint 13th with Pucay at 284.
Pucay bowed out early with a 39 and finished with a 76 while Mondilla, who pulled to within one off Bayron with three straight birdies from No. 2, failed to sustain his hot start and fumbled with a 37 at the back for a 70.
Just one behind the troika with one hole left in regulation, Mondilla attacked the 18th but missed the green and instead holed out with a bogey and ended up tied for fourth with Micah Shin, who rallied with a 66, at 278. Each received $5,000.
Elmer Salvador, winner here on the PGT circuit last year, fought back with a 68 and tied Macedonian Peter Stojanovski, who charged back with a 65, and Arnold Villacencio, who carded a 69, at sixth at 279.
Ababa also pressed his bid early, going four-under after six holes spiked by an eagle on No. 2. But he bogeyed No. 7 and dropped two more strokes at the back to finish with a 71 for joint ninth with Omar Dungca, who shot a second straight 67, at 280.
Lascuña failed to unleash a strong finishing kick and fumbled with a 73 to end up at 12th at 282 behind Jerson Balasabas, who pooled a 281 after a 69.