SILANG, Cavite, Philippines – Swede Nils Floren bogeyed the final hole and settled for a three-under 68, dropping into a tie with a charging Grant Jackson of England for a one-stroke lead over five others at the start of the topsy-turvy, weather-delayed ICTSI Riviera Classic at Langer course here yesterday.
Floren, fourth in the ADT Sime Darby Malaysia last April, hit back-to-back birdies from No. 15 to get past Jackson with a running four-under card but bogeyed the tough par-4 18th in gathering dusk, enabling the Englishman to force a tie with three straight birdies from No. 15.
Like majority of the starting 116-player field, Jackson, out to better his third place finish in the ADT Langkawi Championship in Malaysia last April, had a roller-coaster round of three birdies against the same number of bogeys after 14 holes at the tough par-71 layout. But he came through with superb iron shots on the next three holes to produce birdies and complete a 34-34 card.
“I just had a solid finish,” said Jackson who immediately left after turning in his scorecard.
Local bets Michael Bibat, Elmer Salvador, Robert Pactolerin and Albin Engino and Malaysian Arie Irawan stood a shot behind with 69s that for a while stood as the day’s best until Jackson and Floren came in two of the last flights stranded by an hour-long delay due to lightning early afternoon.
Bibat launched his bid for a second career win on a late charge while Salvador wavered coming home as they turned in a pair of 69s to force a five-way logjam with Pactolerin, Engino and Irawan..
Charles Hong eagled No. 10 and birdied the next in an auspicious start but the ICTSI Sherwood Hills champion made four bogeys at the front, needing to birdie the ninth to save an even-par 71 in a tie with Thai Sattaya Supupramai, England’s Peter Richardson, Aussie Darren Tan and young local aces Miguel Tabuena and Keanu Jahns.
“We were a bit lucky to have drawn the morning tee-off when conditions were still fair. But it’s really tough out there as the greens remain super fast,” said Bibat, who actually struggled in the early going until he tapped in for birdie on the par-5 16th and buried a side-hiller from 20 feet on the last hole.
For a while, Salvador appeared headed for an explosive start in this $60,000 event of the Asian Development Tour sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. after blitzing the backside with four birdies for a 32. But the back-to-back Aboitiz Invitational champion lost his rhythm at the front and reeled back with two bogeys.
“I had a solid iron game at the back and made four birdies from close range (inside six feet) but lost my touch in the last nine holes,” said Salvador, who failed to return a pair of five-footers for par on Nos. 2 and 9.
After spending much of his campaign on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour trying to fight off cut-offs, Pactolerin now hopes to fight for the top $10,500 purse as the former Philippine Open champion and many-time Philippine Masters winner put himself in early contention with three birdies at the back, negating a bogey-mishap on No. 2.
“I was even surprised by my game. But that’s golf and it’s a good feeling to be among the early leaders,” said Pactolerin, who showed up flightmates Luke Bangerter of England (73) and Swede Malcolm Kokocinksi (73) with birdies on Nos. 11, 13 and 16.
Engino, way down in 32nd in the current PGT OOM ranking, actually produced the most explosive windup in the morning group, a five-under 31 that negated a three-over 38 start. He birdied the first two holes at the back to spark his comeback, hit another birdie on No. 14 before closing out with back-to-back feats in a flawless backside stint.
Like Salvador, the 24-year-old Irawan sizzled at the back with a 33 but stumbled with two bogeys against a birdie to settle for a 69 and a share of the lead in the event serving as the sixth leg of both the ADT and the ICTSI PGT.
Tony Lascuna, the early top local bet owing to his recent performances, struggled with a new driver and was lucky to salvage a one-over 72 and stay just three shots off the pace.
“I thought I could score with the help of a new driver but I instead made four errant drives at the frontside that’s why I settled for 3- and 5-wood off the tee,” rued Lascuna. “But despite a 72, I’m still within striking distance.”
Other 72 scorers were Thais Pavit Tangkamolprasert, Poosit Supupramai, Suppakorn Uthaipat, and Pijit Petchkasem, American Brett Munson, Japan’s Tenka Terada and Tomokazu Yoshinaga and local bets Ferdie Aunzo and James Ryan Lam.
The other backers of the event are Nike Golf, Pacsports Phils. Inc., Srixon, Callaway, Mizuno, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp and KZG with ABS-CBN Sports & Action, Balls and Inquirer Golf as media partners.