Elmer Salvador recalled his fierce form and bucked windy condition to shoot a five-under 67 and seize a one-stroke lead over Jhonnel Ababa at the start of the ICTSI Eagle Ridge Invitational at the Eagle Ridge Golf and Country Club’s Aoki course in General Trias, Cavite on Wednesday.
Salvador, who had three top 10 finishes in the first five legs of the inaugural Philippine Golf Tour Asia late last year, came out of the holiday break in top form, unleashing solid shotmaking and iron shots he complemented with superb putting to take control of the elite field in the $100,000 event serving as the sixth leg of the region’s newest circuit.
He birdied six of the first 12 holes inside 10 feet although the reticent Davaoeño shotmaker, who went on a winless spell on the PGT last year, wavered a bit at the finish, fumbling with bogeys on Nos. 14 and 17 against another birdie on No. 15.
Still, his 32-35 card proved enough to net him the early lead in the 72-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI with Ababa birdying the par-3 17th to stay within striking distance at 68.
“I played solid, everything was in place, including my irons and putting. I just hope to keep this form or play even better in the next three days,” said Salvador, who last won at Splendido in 2016 but tied for fifth at Aboitiz Invitational, shared sixth place at Splendido, ended up joint 30th at Riviera, hobbled for a share of 28th at Wack Wack and rallied to finish tied at seventh at the CAT Open at Luisita in the first five legs of the PGT Asia organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Ababa, also out to snap a long title drought, hit six birdies but made two bogeys to settle at second while Thai Tommy Mansuwan stumbled at the finish and shot a 70, dropping to joint third with Joenard Rates and Dutch Guido Van der Valk.
Benjie Magada and American Josh Salah churned out the only two under par cards with 71 for joint sixth with CAT Open winner Justin Quiban matching par 72 to tie six others at eighth.
Other even par scorers were Paul Echavez, Anthony Fernando, Zanieboy Gialon, Keanu Jahns, Japanese Yuki Kamasu and Gerald Rosales.
The rest came in ruffled by the wind that blew from all over with Wack Wack leg champion Tony Lascuña limping with a 74, the same output put in by American John Michael O’Toole, while Thai Pasavee Lertvilai, who fumbled with a 75, Frankie Miñoza who bogeyed the last two holes for a 76 and Jay Bayron way behind with a 78.
Jerson Balasabas, Michael Bibat, Albin Engino and Aussie David Gleeson all turned in one-over 73s and stood six strokes off Salvador in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.