Gerald Rosales relived his glory days at Riviera, bucking a windy start with a fiery charge at the back to net a four-under 67 and a one-stroke lead over Edward Reyes at the start of the P2.5 million ICTSI Riviera Classic at Langer course in Silang, Cavite on Wednesday.
Rosales, coming off a joint fourth place finish in last week’s ICTSI Splendido Classic, knocked down three straight birdies at the back after a one-birdie, one-bogey stint at the front then added two more in the last five holes to negate a bogey mishap on the 17th and take charge of the 72-hole championship.
“The wind was strong early on but disappeared in the last five holes,” said Rosales, who bested a tough field to win the Philippine Open here in 2000, which proved to be his last major win as he went on a slump with injuries and poor form.
Reyes, who never got back into the mix after finishing second to Miguel Tabuena in the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour kickoff leg at Sherwood last March, birdied three of the last 10 holes while saving a couple of pars to stay right behind Rosales at 68.
“My iron shots were solid today and the wind suddenly stopped at the back,” said the 19-year-old Reyes, who rammed in a four-footer for birdie on No. 11 before holing out with a 20-footer on the 18th.
Michael Bibat launched his bid for a second crown after scoring a breakthrough at ICTSI Palos Verdes last June with a two-under 69 for solo third while Mhark Fernando, who won this event as an amateur in 2009, overcame an opening double-bogey mishap with four birdies against a bogey to tie James Ryan Lam at fourth at one-under 70.
Lam, who missed the cut at Splendido, also rallied with two birdies at the quiet backside of the par-71 layout to put himself in early contention although condition is expected to get worse heading to the weekend of the event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Cassius Casas, foiled by first-time winner Elmer Saban last week, bogeyed the par-4 18th and dropped to joint sixth with Rey Pagunsan, who had a 37-34 card, at 71 while Benjie Magada and Erwin Arcillas stood five adrift off Rosales with identical one-over 72s.
The reed-thin Saban, who displayed steely nerves to hold off Casas in their backside duel at Splendido, wavered coming home this time, dropping three strokes in the last four holes at the back for a 74 and joint 21st with Jun Bernis, Erwin Vinluan, Rico Depilo, Randy Garalde and Paul Echavez.
Rosales actually went two-up after following up his three-birdie string with a pair of tap-in birdies on Nos. 14 and 16 but he three-putted the overlooking 17th green and settled for a 35-32 round.
Tied for 10th with 73s are Anthony Fernando, Jessie Balasabas, Rolando Marabe, Cookie La’O, Johvanie Abaño, Arnold Villacencio, Robert Pactolerin, Dante Becierra and Korean Phil Cho.