Elmer Salvador battled back from three down with a birdie-binge in the early going then ran off a slew of gutsy pars at the back to card a 67, outgun an equally charging Jay Bayron and snare the ICTSI Splendido Classic crown by one in Tagaytay on Saturday.
Salvador rattled off six birdies in a 10-hole stretch from No. 2 to wrest control in second-to-last flight as third round leader Jhonnel Ababa and erstwhile pursuer Tony Lascuña cracked midway through the pressure-packed finale and failed to strike back at the backside of the Splendido Taal Golf Club.
After birdying Nos. 10 and 11, both par 5s, to take control, Salvador held sway with clutch putts for pars in the last seven holes, the last a five-footer that frustrated Bayron to force a sudden death that has marked the last two tournaments of the circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
Bayron birdied the final hole ahead of Salvador to cap a scorching 66 in windy day and was hoping for the latter’s final hole miscue that never came.
“My putting clicked today (yesterday). Except for my missed green bogey on No. 1, I played solid from tee to green,” said Salvador, who pocketed the top P360,000 purse on an 11-under 277 aggregate.
“It’s nice to win again. I thought I’d go winless this year,” added Salvador, who never figured in the title chase after 13 legs, settling for joint 15th in two of the last three at Aboitiz and Mt. Malarayat while finishing tied for sixth at ICTSI Riviera, which he ruled in emphatic fashion last year.
He went on a slump since until he sizzled with that early birdie-splurge and pounced on Ababa and Lascuna’s foldups to get into the winner’s podium again.
Bayron also rallied from third-to-last flight with the day’s best six-under card, spiked by a four-birdie string from No. 10 and a final birdie for second at 278. He took home P250,000.
Lascuña, who led midway through the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with a 66 but dropped to joint second with a third round 74, regained control with back-to-back opening birdies. The four-leg winner led by two at nine-under overall and looked headed for another romp after another birdie on No. 10.
But he drove out of bounds on the next and ended up with a double-bogey, enabling Salvador to storm ahead at 11-under. Lascuna struck back with a birdie on No. 15 but failed to cash in on his chances in the last three holes and finished with a 70 for solo third at 279. He received P140,000.
Ababa, whose rare double-eagle feat on No. 10 in the third round put him two shots clear of Lascuña and Micah Shin, never recovered from a two-bogey and double bogey mishaps after seven holes although he gunned down three birdies in the next 10 holes to save a 73 for joint fourth with Shin, who carded a second straight 71, at 280.
Rey Pagunsan also closed out with a 71 and ended up sixth at 281 while Aussie Peter Stojanovski turned in a second 71 for seventh at 283 and first round leader Seok Jun Min of Korea fumbled with a 73 and finished tied for eighth with Michael Bibat, who fired a 70, at 284.
Mhark Fernando fought back with a 69 for a 286 and wound up 10th in the 14th leg of the circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion.
Salvador, who started way below the elite field after an opening 73 but rebounded with 68 and 69 in the next two days, actually fell by four behind Ababa with a bogey on the first hole. But the reticent Davaoeño shotmaker made quite a noise when with an amazing iron and putting show that produced six birdies in the next 10 holes.
With Ababa succumbing to pressure early and Lascuña reeling with a double-bogey on No. 11, Salvador surged ahead by two over Bayron, who fired seven birdies against two bogeys in the first 13 holes, with a five-under card and clung to the lead—and the victory —with pars in the last seven.