Elmer Salvador and Tony Lascuña took different routes but produced the same results—a pair of five-under 67s as they assumed the 1-2 positions after two rounds of the P1 million ICTSI Del Monte Championship at Del Monte Golf Club in Bukidnon on Thursday.
As opening day leader Richard Sinfuego fumbled and tumbled down the leaderboard with a 74, Salvador and Lascuna set up a duel between the Davaoeño aces who finished joint runners-up at ICTSI Rancho Palos Verdes Classic last week with Salvador pooling a 135 for a one-stroke lead over Lascuna, who assembled a 136.
Unheralded Johvanie Abaño will join Salvador and Lascuna in today’s championship flight after the local bet made a strong finish for a 68 to gain a rare crack at the fancied pair at seven-under 137, just two off the pace.
Miguel Tabuena came charging back in one of the late afternoon flights and closed out with four straight birdies to cap a fiery 31 at the front for the day’s best 66 as the Sherwood Hills leg winner took solo fourth at 139 to move four strokes off Salvador.
Frankie Miñoza rallied at the frontnine, the backside of his game yesterday, hitting three birdies against a bogey to post a second straight 70 for a 140 in a tie with James Ryan Lam, who carded a 71. But the duo stood five strokes behind Salvador heading to the final 18 holes of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.
After a near-flawless 67 Wednesday, Sinfuego went on a roller-coaster ride with four bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 5, dropping to joint sixth with five others at 141, now six shots off Salvador.
Other 141 scorers were local bets Clyde Mondilla and Peter Miñoza, who had 69 and 71, respectively, Charles Hong, who matched par 72, and Korean Micah Shin, who turned in a 71.
Albin Engino fired a six-under card after 15 holes but bogeyed the last three holes at the front, finishing with a 69 and joining the 141 group in the tournament sponsored by ICTSI.
Michael Bibat, the Palos Verdes winner who started the day just one shot behind Sinfuego, birdied two of the last four holes at the front to salvage a 73 and join Sinfuego and company at seventh.
Salvador went on a birdie-spree at the front, hitting three straight from No. 4. Although he stumbled with a bogey on the 10th which he birdied the previous round, the 2010 Order of Merit champion of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour eagled the par-5 14th from 12 feet then birdied the 18th for the second straight day for a 33-34 card.
“I putted well today [Thursday] and I hope to sustain it tomorrow,” said Salvador in Filipino.
Lascuna, meanwhile, launched his bid at the back, settling for a run of pars in the first four holes before catching fire with four birdies in row, barely missing a fifth one on the par-5 18th.
The ICTSI Calatagan leg winner reeled back with a missed green bogey on No. 3 but struck back with birdies on the last two par-5s on Nos. 6 and 9 to finish with a 35-32.
“I had a chance on No. 18 for another birdie but I blew it again,” rued Lascuna, who had squandered another chance to gain at least a share of the lead with a flubbed birdie putt from close range.
Lascuna went straight to the practice green to polish his stroke, which he said will likely decide the winner in this sixth leg of the circuit backed by Nike Golf, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, Mizuno, Titleist, Srixon, Foot Joy, Callaway, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers, Cleveland Golf and Sharp.
“We had clashed for the title a number of times before and the one who putts better always ends up the winner,” said Lascuna.