Title-hungry Ferdie Aunzo sizzled at the finish that didn’t go the way of a slew of early contenders as he salvaged an even-par 71 to snatch a one-stroke lead over Miguel Tabuena and Randy Garalde in a wild opener of the $60,000 ICTSI Eagle Ridge Invitational at Eagle Ridge’s Aoki course in Gen. Trias, Cavite on Wednesday.
Aunzo birdied the last two holes at sundown and found himself on top of the heap with a wind-blown 36-35 card as Tabuena double-bogeyed the par-4 18th and signed a 72 and Tony Lascuna blew a two-under card with four holes left and limped with a 74.
Tabuena and Lascuna’s late foldups typified the field’s day-long struggle on the surprisingly tough Aoki layout until Aunzo, seeking to snap a long title spell, rolled in a pin-length birdie putt on the 17th before holing out with a seven-footer to seize control of the 72-hole championship serving as the seventh leg of the ADT and third of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“I really went for birdies in the last two holes to save an even par card and I was just lucky to be able to do it despite the wind,” said Aunzo.
Tabuena squandered a one-under card— and the lead—with that closing double-bogey mishap in one of the late flights but surged back to the top as Lascuna blew a two-under card with four holes left in a flight behind, finishing with back-to-back double-bogeys from No. 15 and dropping a stroke on No. 17.
But Aunzo came through with that birdie-birdie finish, relegating Tabuena to second in a tie with Garalde, who birdied Nos. 15 and 16 from long range to save a 37-35 round in one of the highest scoring openers of both ADT and PGT events.
Malaysian Arie Irawan, No. 2 in the current ADT Order of Merit ranking, carded a 73 to lead the two-over par scores, who included Americans Greg Moss and Yoon Sejun, Scot Nick Redfern and Swede CJ Stjarnfalt and local bets Anthony Fernando, Rolando Marabe and Gerald Rosales.
Former ADT OOM champion Jay Bayron put in a pair of 37s to lead a big bunch of three-over par scores, who included Lascuna, Elmer Salvador, John Kier Abdon, Michael Bibat, Dante Becierra, Marvin Dumandan, Rey Pagunsan, Elmer Saban, American Micah Shin, Finland’s Janne Kasne, Koeran Lee Gyeongjun, Aussie Kevin Marques and Singapore’s Mitchell Slorach.
The Aoki layout, which played to a par 71 after the ADT converted No. 16 to a par-4 hole, bared its fangs early and yielded no under-par scores in the morning group with Moss, Englishman Redfern, Irawan and Fernando’s identical two-over 73s proving to be the best in tough condition.
Three-time ADT winner Salvador blew a two-under card after three holes at the back with a spate of bogeys and limped with a three-over 74 as he tumbled down the leaderboard littered with over-par scores.
Salvador, who ruled the ADT Riviera leg last year, bogeyed Nos. 14 and 15 and made three straight bogeys from No. 18. He birdied the par-5 sixth but dropped another stroke on the tough No. 8 for a 38-36 card.
Jay Bayron had an even par card after 10 holes but made a double-bogey on No. 13 and dropped two more strokes on Nos. 15 and 16 before knocking down a birdie on the par-3 17th for a pair of 37s to join Salvador and 10 others at 42nd.