BACOLOD: Title-hungry Arnold Villacencio flubbed a birdie-putt from two feet on No. 8 and settled for a four-under 66, dropping into a tie with Elmer Salvador, one stroke ahead of fancied Tony Lascuña and obscure Chris Mamaril at the start of the P1 million Negros Occidental Classic here on Wednesday.
Eager to sink the putt from just a tap-in distance, Villa–cencio instead rushed his stroke, the ball lipping the cup to his dismay, stopping him from seizing the solo lead for the first time while enabling the steady Salvador to grab a piece of it.
“I was about to pick up the ball from the hole but it lipped out,” said Villacencio, whose late-hole miscue marred an otherwise blazing frontside finish that saw him birdie the first three holes inside four feet for a 32-34 card at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club course.
Still, it was an impressive opener for the Fernando Air Base Golf Club bet in Lipa City, Batangas, who hit two birdies against a bogey at the back before blitzing the first nine holes of the par-70 Marapara layout with solid driving and superb approach shots.
Four flights behind, Salvador outgunned Lascuña in an early clash of the favorites in the 10th leg of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, negating his bogey mishap on No. 7 with five birdies, including on the par-3 8th which Villacencio bogeyed to cap a 33-33 round.
Lascuña didn’t fare bad either despite getting outshot by Salvador with the reigning back-to-back Order of Merit champion and winner of two legs in this year’s circuit sponsored by International Container Terminals Services, Inc. gunning down four birdies against a bogey at the back to wrest early control. But after another birdie on No. 6, he also dropped a shot on No. 8 to slip to joint third with Mamaril at 67.