TAGAYTAY, Philippines – Jay Bayron came charging back from nine strokes down with a brilliant backside 32 then watched younger brother Rufino Bayron flub a playoff-clinching putt on the 72nd hole to snatch the ICTSI Splendido Classic crown with a 69 in a windy, topsy-turvy final round at Splendido Taal Golf Club here yesterday.
As Rufino cracked under pressure and skied to a 79 after a string of under-par cards, and Tony Lascuña failed to check his early skid and hobbled with a 73, Jay put on a strong finishing kick in a flight ahead of the championship group, closing out with a four-under 32, spiked by an eagle on the par-5 11th and capped by a five-foot birdie putt on the 18th, another par-5 hole.
With a seven-under 281 total, Jay took a one-stroke lead over Rufino, who set up a birdie-putt from 10 feet on the final hole. But the third round leader wilted under extreme pressure, enabling Jay to steal the win and the top P270,000 purse in the kickoff leg of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“I really didn’t expect to win. I just played my game and tried to hold on against the strong wind at the backside,” said Jay in Pilipino. “I only realized that I had taken the lead after I bogeyed No. 16.”
It was a monumental fold-up for Rufino, who had looked forward to finally ending a long search for a breakthrough win after tying the course record of 65 in the third round and building a seven-stroke lead. But he cracked up early, making three straight bogeys from No. 2 and closing out the frontside with back-to-back double bogeys.
Still, his 43 at the turn kept him on top of the heap until Jay made one final charge with an eagle from a brilliant 4-iron shot from 206 that landed eight feet off the target and three birdies from close range that negated his bogey on the 16th from an errant drive.
Clyde Mondilla, 12 strokes off Rufino in the fourth-to-the-last flight, also had a chance to tie Jay but muffed his own birdie bid from 12 feet, settling for joint runner-up with Rufino at 282. Each took home P145,000.
Like Rufino, Lascuña struggled while trying to buck the wind that blew from all over, making a double bogey on the second but moving within two off despite a 38 at the turn. Like Rufino, the reigning back-to-back ICTSI PGT Order of Merit champion settled for pars at the back, sneaking in a birdie on the 16th to salvage a 73 for solo fourth at 283 worth P85,000.
“I knew I had a chance but I just couldn’t make the putts at the back,” rued Lascuña, who missed at least two birdie putts inside six feet in the last nine holes.
Elmer Salvador, the leader in the first two rounds and the third player in the featured flight, birdied the opening hole but made three straight bogeys from No. 3 and never got back into contention. He wound up with a 75, finishing tied for fourth at 285 with Frankie Miñoza, who made a 73.
Miñoza, who posted three victories last year, actually moved to joint second in the early going with an eagle on No. 1 but failed to sustain his charge and finished with a one-over card. Each received P64,250.
Rey Pagunsan fumbled with a 75 for solo seventh at 286 worth P51,500 while Miguel Tabuena carded a 71 and ended up tied for eighth at 287 with veteran Robert Pactolerin, who matched par 72. They shared the combined P80,500 prize.
Swede Malcolm Kokocinski carded a 73 and emerged as the top foreign player in the event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., finishing tied for 10th with Paul Echavez, who rallied with a 71, for a 288. Each got P32,000.
Expecting a cruise for Rufino, Jay instead found himself contending for the crown with a brilliant backside 32 as the former failed to recover from a 43 start with a slew of pars at the back.
“Dumiskarte lang ako para malabanan ko yung lakas ng hangin. Mabuti at nakabawi ako sa backnine,” said Jay, whose victory augured well for his title-retention bid in the tour’s next leg, the ICTSI Camp John Hay Championship, set to fire off Wednesday in Baguio.
Lascuña pressed his bid early with a birdie on the first hole but mishit his drive on the next and holed out with a double-bogey before dropping another stroke on the next. He birdied No. 6 but bogeyed the ninth for a 38 and failed to hit more than one birdie at the back for that 73.
The event was backed by Nike Golf, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp and FootJoy with Balls TV and ABS-CBN Sports+Action as media partners.