Dabawenyo Elmer Salvador eagled the par-4 17th to charge into the lead with a five-under 67 but a slew of others stood just one stroke or two behind, ensuring a wide open battle for the top P200,000 purse in the ICTSI Del Monte Championship at the Del Monte Golf Club in Bukidnon, Thursday.
Salvador, out to atone for his fifth place finish in his home course at Apo last week, made four birdies in another low scoring day then knocked in an eagle with a 52-degree shot from 130 yards to negate his lone bogey mishap on No. 11.
He had a 34-33 and pooled a 36-hole aggregate of 135, putting himself within 18 holes from adding another victory after ruling the kickoff leg of this year’s ICTSI-Philippine Golf Tour at Mt. Malarayat last February.
“Although I’ve been hitting my shots quite well lately, I’m still not in my 100 percent form. But I’m confident and I think I have a good chance to win again,” said Salvador, in Filipino.
But the soft-spoken reigning RP Open champion will have a lot of contenders to ward off, including last week’s ICTSI Apo leg winner Juvic Pagunsan, who matched Richard Sinfuego’s second straight 68 to stay just one shot behind at 136.
Angelo Que, who skipped last week’s event to prepare for this one, also fired a 67 and quickly got into the mix with a 137, tying Cassius Casas, another fancied bet who was full of optimism coming into this P1 million event sponsored by
International Container Terminal Services Inc. Casas carded a 69.
Robert Pactolerin, who surprised the star-studded field with a 66 in the first round, slid three rungs lower at sixth as he grappled with his balky putter all day but remained in the hunt of the top purse with a 138 despite an even par 72.
Artemio Murakami, the reigning Mercedes Benz Masters Philippines, turned in another 70 for a 140 in a tie with Tony Lascuna, who bucked a bum stomach to shoot a 69, Demetrio Sanchez, who had a 71, Ferdie Aunzo, who shot a 67, and
ICTSI Orchard leg winner Benjie Magada, who also carded a second straight 70.
But focus will surely be on the most feared player in the fold.
Pagunsan, who defended his ICTSI Apo leg crown last week in convincing fashion, made sure to put himself in contention again, not only for a rare streak but also for a record three-leg crown on the three-year-old tour backed by MJ Carr Golf Management, Jaguar, Land Rover, Studio 23, Balls TV, Srixon/Cleveland Golf, Callaway Golf, Odyssey and Golf Punk and media partners Business Mirror, Inquirer Golf Monthly, A Round of Golf, Pinoygolfer.com and Omnisource.
He birdied three of the last three holes for a second straight 68 for joint second which he said was just where he had wanted to be in this kind of a wild finish among so many contenders on a relatively short, undemanding course they continued to pound for the second straight day.
After 25 players broke par and five others matched par in the first round, the par-72 layout yielded 21 under-par scores yesterday, promising another shootout among the country’s top guns as the chase for top honors comes down to a deciding 18 holes on Friday.
“The first six holes will be crucial here. Whoever gets to hit birdies early and establish control will have the inside track (to the crown),” said Pagunsan, who has opted to downplay his chances for another crown.
“If the race remains close up to the backside, the par-3 12th will most likely decide the winner,” said Pagunsan, referring to the testy 205-yard hole, dubbed as the “Waterloo Hole” where one needs a carry of 210 yards over water. He bogeyed the hole yesterday after failing to rescue a par from the bunker.
Casas also stalked the leaders with another superb round, closing out with back-to-back birdies at the front to put himself within sight of what could be his first victory in a long while.
“I like my chances. As I’ve been saying, this is where I believe I have a big chance (to win),” said Casas, who used to dominate the local tour for years, including a pair of victories here in the defunct First Gentleman circuit.
Poor putting hounded Pactolerin again as he missed eight birdie chances inside eight feet and settled for a 72, falling three shots back.
“I just can’t make the putt. Imagine had I converted half of them, I would’ve still kept the lead,” said Pactolerin, who made seven birdies against a bogey in showing up the field Wednesday.(pr)