TARLAC — Elmer Salvador broke out of a long scoring spell with a solid seven-under 65 yesterday, emerging from a crowded leaderboard with a three-stroke lead over Jhonnel Ababa and two others at the start of the CAT (Central Azucarera de Tarlac) Open Tuesday at the Luisita Golf and Country Club here.
Salvador put on a fiery game when conditions turned from ideal to tough in afternoon play, completing a bogey-free 33-32 card that overshadowed Ababa’s equally impressive 68 along with those of Jobim Carlos and Tim Stewart of Australia.
“I didn’t expect to score this low, but got by irons and putting going. I just hope to sustain this form up to the finish,” said Salvador in Filipino.
He missed matching Clyde Mondilla’s record-setting 64 last week with a muffed birdie putt from 10 feet on No. 11.
Ababa and Carlos took charge in the early going with identical 68s with the former also completing a flawless four-birdie card and the latter birdying four of the last seven holes to seize the clubhouse lead until Salvador came in late with his imposing round.
Stewart rebounded from a bogey on No. 4 with five birdies at the back to get into the mix in the sixth leg.
After snapping a long title drought with an 18-under feat last week, Mondilla settled for a three-birdie, three-bogey stint, his 72 dropping him to joint 37th, seven strokes off Salvador.
“I struggled a bit on the greens, missing at least four makeable birdie putts,” said Ababa, who actually considers himself lucky on PGT Asia where he won three titles, including back-to-back romps at Riviera and Pradera Verde to close out the inaugural season of the region’s newest circuit last January.
He also dominated this year’s fourth leg at Forest Hills last July.
Carlos also put himself in early contention for a second PGTA win on a strong finish.
Michael Bibat toted a four-under card after 12 holes but bogeyed the next and settled for a 69 in a tie with Tarik Can and fellow American Josh Salah and former leg winner Rene Menor while Jun Bernis eagled the par-5 12th to lead the big group of 70 scorers who included Keanu Jahns, Thai Wisut Artjanawat, Jerson Balasabas, American Sydney Chung, James Ryan Lam, Joenard Rates, Aussie Jack Sullivanm Arnold Villacencio, Efren Robles Jr. and Nilo Salahog.